Help! Identifying Who You Need on Your Committee

Identifying new committee members.

Management Committees operate most effectively when their members come with different skills, knowledge, backgrounds and experiences.  This variety helps the Committee meet its many responsibilities and contributes to the dynamics and creative energy within the group.

Recruitment of new members presents an opportunity to identify and address gaps in representation and skills in your Committee’s membership.  You may need to consider whether your Management Committee has the skills and knowledge it needs to lead and direct the organisation towards its vision and aims over the next 3-5 years.

Assessing skills and diversity 

Look first at who is on your Committee and then discuss or consider the following key questions:

  1. What skills exist amongst your Management Committee members?
  2. What skills are needed within your Management Committee to fulfil current responsibilities effectively? (e.g. financial management, planning, employment expertise, public speaking etc)
  3. Does your Management Committee need additional expertise to meet the development needs of your organisation? (e.g. if you are expanding, perhaps there is a need for specific expertise in personnel management)
  4. Does your Management Committee look as if members have been cloned?  A diverse Management Committee will consist of people from different backgrounds and situations, for example, in relation to:
    1. age;
    2. socio-economic class;
    3. religion;
    4. ethnicity;
    5. gender;
    6. marital status;
    7. disability; and
    8. educational attainment.
  5. Is your Management Committee able to represent the interests of a range of key stakeholders?  If not, consider whether Management Committee membership would be a suitable and/or appropriate mechanism for these groups to be represented.
  6. Does your Management Committee reflect the communities, sector and environment that you work within? 

You may end up with a lengthy wish-list, but it is important to prioritise these and to be realistic regarding what you can expect from new members.  You may also be able to achieve some of your ‘wish list’ objectives by:

  • Establishing links with external experts or professionals whereby you can consult them on relevant issues (e.g. consulting with an advertising executive on marketing strategies or with an employment lawyer on staff-related matters);
  • Co-opting members on a short-term basis (usually meaning between AGMs) to bring particular representation or skills onto your Committee during a specific development phase (e.g. co-opting young persons onto your committee whilst developing new programmes from which they will benefit); and
  • Establishing advisory committees who will take on the role of considering issues relevant to the Management Committee’s responsibilities and ensure the Committee is provided with appropriate information and advice.  Members of these advisory committees are not Management Committee members and therefore do not take on the same responsibilities or commitments (e.g. a group representing the diverse cultural backgrounds of the local communities is set up to advise on how to ensure a community group caters for all needs).

These alternative approaches may also widen the pool of people who may in future consider Management Committee membership.

Having narrowed down the type of individual you need to involve on your Committee, remember that this must also influence how and where you recruit and what support mechanisms you put in place to ensure that these new members are able to contribute effectively to the organisation.

Scenario – Young people as committee members

A community organisation, set up to benefit young people, had no one on the Management Committee less than 25 years old.  At their Annual General Meeting (AGM) it was agreed that young people should have more input into the running and activities of the organisation.
The organisation decided that one-third of their committee members should be aged 18-25 years.  In addition, they would establish working groups to look at particular issues for the organisation, enabling young people under 18 years to have a voice.

Actions and outcome

Firstly the organisation reviewed its committee recruitment strategy to ensure that they were effectively reaching those in the target age group.

The organisation also put in place systems to support young people who become Management Committee members.  New members receive induction training outlining the role and responsibilities of the Management Committee, followed by a review meeting two months later to see how they are getting on.  They are also matched with another Committee member during their settling-in period. Additionally, the young people can avail of other training such as assertiveness, finances and public speaking.

Importantly, the Committee built in an evaluation process at the end of every meeting where ideas and suggestions could be shared for improving the running of meetings.  This led to a number of changes that made meetings more relevant and interesting to all, including the younger members.

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