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Sometimes It Takes a Committee

Holly Lang, Senior Consultant
August 27, 2014

“We’ve recently formed a committee to address the issue of fundraising, so obviously nothing will happen.” This was the sentiment I heard echoed while meeting with a founding board member of a now 40+ year old organization. A successful business owner and respected community leader, this seasoned C-suite executive left no ambiguities about her feelings on committees and their effectiveness – or lack thereof. And certainly she is not alone in her thinking. Committees can take hours of time and effort and the perception can often be all they produce are (meeting) minutes. A quick web search for “committee quotes” generates countless results from noteworthy and historic figures with commentary ranging from wry and witty observations to outright cynicism about the effectiveness of committees and their value.

However, in the nonprofit sector committees are indispensable – created for everything from board leadership and organizational governance to fundraising to event planning and perhaps even facilities management and maintenance. Committees allow an organization to get its work done, assemble people and facilitate progress and momentum on important issues.

With the ongoing success and growth of the nonprofit sector, it stands to reason that the practice of committee work may not be quite as broken as popular opinion may suggest. So just what makes a committee operate effectively?

While the answer to that question has many parts and authors, one key consideration – especially when it comes to your fundraising or development committee – is effective engagement and management. So many times I have heard staff leadership complain, “My development committee doesn’t DO anything!”

Before you find yourself making that same complaint ask yourself these key questions:

1. “Have I effectively engaged my committee so that they are motivated to accomplish our goals?
2. Is my committee clear on what our goals are and the actions we need to take to get there?
3. What can I do differently to motivate this group to action?”

With a little bit of introspection and some creative thinking, nonprofit leaders can breathe new life into their committees and make these groups work for the greater good! Perhaps it’s as simple as reframing the challenge at hand. Rather than set the committee’s charge to raise $10 million, what about asking that each person to simply get a meeting with one new major gift prospect over the next 6 weeks?

Successful committee work isn’t easy, but it certainly is achievable! To better understand your organization’s board and volunteer leadership and opportunities for increased engagement, click here to give our Leadership Assessment Tool a try.