Dealing With Poor Attendance
Poor attendance is a common problem for management committees. This makes it difficult for committees to apply consistent, good quality, collective decision making.
However, where committees are anxious not to completely lose valued members, many struggle to deal with this issue and are reluctant to take the necessary steps to improve attendance.
The chairperson is responsible for dealing with poor attendance. S/he needs to find out what the governing document/constitution says about attendance and apply the rules. (Keeping a register of attendance at management committee meetings and publishing it annually often helps to improve the situation!)
Reasons for non-attendance
It is always a good idea to find out the reason for the non-attendance. Here are some common reasons, with suggestions for how the chairperson could manage the situation:
1. An issue in the member's work or personal life is temporarily absorbing much of their time and energy.
- The chairperson could suggest that the member takes a break from being on the Management Committee for an agreed period such as 3 months.
2. The member is busy and attendance at the management committee meetings is never a priority.
- If meetings never or rarely become a priority for a Management Committee member, the Chair needs to tell him/her that it is time to step down.
3. The member received little induction or support when they first joined and is finding it difficult to participate effectively.
- The Chair could reassure the member that her/his experience and skills are very much needed and organise a belated induction programme.
- The Chair could also arrange for a more experienced member of the committee to be his/her mentor and facilitate their participation at management committee meetings.
4. Meetings are not purposeful or productive so the member does not see much point in attending.
- The management committee should review their practice in planning their meetings & utilise an agenda to formalise the meetings structures. (Click here to download a suggested format for an Agenda.)
5. Meetings are so unfriendly and rancorous that the member does not want to be part of it.
- The Management Committee may need some support from an external agency/person to address their particular issues.
If the management committee is not functioning effectively, the chair could initiate a governance review, ideally facilitated by an objective outsider with knowledge of governance issues - such as a support agency.
Some suggested tools or approaches include:
- Develop a Code of Conduct for management committee members
- Provide committee members with role descriptions, specifying the required commitment
- Review who's on the committee and recruitment strategies
- Review length of tenure
- Review how meetings are run, their frequency, how decisions are made, use of alternative means of communication etc.
- Use team-building activities to build relationships and commitment - e.g. training or away days; focus members around key projects or goals like strategic planning
- Ensure shared focus around role in relation to the organisation's vision, mission and values.
Don't forget! The achievement of the charitable objects and the interests of the charity's beneficiaries are paramount. The interests of individual management committee members and the staff and/or volunteers are secondary.