Committee members are a vital part of any association. As important as committee members are, they come with one consistent issue and that is that committee members are not permanent. Effective processes need to be put in place to address the issue of changing committee members in order to ensure seamless transitions and continual flow of work.
There are three strategies that have proven effective for one of the associations that we manage.
Strategy #1: Incoming Chair
The association’s committees have been structured in a way that they have a Chair, an Incoming Chair and several members. The Chair acts as a mentor to the Incoming Chair and signs on for a two-year term (one year as Incoming Chair and the second year as Chair). This structure allows for the Incoming Chair to be a part of all meetings and discussions for the year leading up to their term as Chair. With this strategy, the new Chair will be aware of all current items and will have had one year of training. This will allow the Chair to pick up right where things left off and ensure that new committee members are brought up to speed right from the get go.
Strategy #2: Returning Committee Members
The second strategy implemented in the committee structure is to aim for a year-over-year 50% committee member retention. This means that the association tries to have half of the committee members stay on for a second term as they have been involved in all recent past and ongoing initiatives and so that they can act as mentors to new committee members. There is very little stoppage in work with this strategy as there are only a handful of new committee members who will need to be trained and educated on any current work.
Strategy #3: President Involvement
Depending on the size of your association and scope of work, this strategy may not be feasible but perhaps a variation can work. The third strategy is to have part of the executive committee involved in all committee meetings. The President, similar to the Chair role, is a multi-year commitment. They sign on for one year as Incoming President, one year as President and one year as Immediate Past President. The Incoming President and current President are invited to attend every committee meeting. Again, with this strategy the association is ensuring consistency from one committee to the next. There is also an added benefit with this strategy in that the Incoming President and current President will be aware of all committee work at one time so they can help create links between initiatives and ensure that there is no duplication of work across the different committees. Other associations that we manage add a board liaison to each committee to spread out the burden.
Every association’s committee structure will vary slightly based on the size and goals of that association, however a formalized process should still be developed to address changing committee members. Committees often do the grunt work of small associations. This is such an effective means of achieving an association’s vision it would be a shame if work was slowed down or stopped due to a change in who is sitting around the table. Strategies specific to your association and its committees need to be developed in order to guarantee that a transition happens seamlessly and so that progress can continue to be made.