Blue Avocado Piece On Staffing and Supporting Board Committees

Shortly before the holidays I saw this piece by Blue Avocado on staffing and supporting board committees and wanted to make sure I discussed it. Especially since it ties in so well with my last post on when and how to use Board Committees.

A few takeaways, and epiphanies, I got from this piece were:

  • When it comes to staff and committee volunteers each must respect the role of the other. The point on board chairs asking staff to take on large time-consuming projects, or many ministerial projects for that matter, is a reality and it happens alot. Too much. Which is why it’s incumbent that we as committee members remain respectful of a staff person’s time. Particularly when they are likely juggling a load that should be handled by three other people.  Conversely, I’ve often seen staff become frustrated at the availability or knowledge base of volunteer committee members. But let’s say it all together, these individuals are vol-un-teers. So they may not know what a grant report is or have the capacity to respond quickly to your emails. But frankly, that was kinda assumed coming in since so many volunteers have consuming careers and families.  Nevertheless, there is clearly an interest.  Now, it becomes a matter of harnessing that interest and being creative in the way the committee member is engaged. If a quick answer is needed, pick the phone and give em a call. Develop a system (i.e. you title your emails a certain way or call at a certain time) if they move around alot.   It’s all about how you harness the relationship. Which leads me to another point I liked…..

  • The point asking staff to take a moment at the beginning of a committee relationship to think “What can I bring out in, or try to avoid with, this board member” is genius. How smart is that? Not only can you harness the resources (monetary, skill, etc.) that this person brings but reciprocally you can make it an opportunity to have them grow with the organization. Why not have each committee member weigh in and discuss what it is they’d like to take out of the experience as well? If a board member, you could add this to their individual Board Member Assessment?

  • I also like the point about staff being cognizant that their actions are magnified when working with a committee. But another way to look at this is that such engagement also becomes yet another great development tool. What better way to sell the organization, and its needs, then to be impressive? Brag about your upcoming events, exceeded benchmarks or recent triumphs. Make the committee’s life easier and prepare hard copies for an upcoming meeting even if they aren’t requested.  And when someone asks why the staples don’t close, take this as an opportunity to (gingerly) highlight that your copy machine is an 80’s floor model. That requires you kick it once and knock three times to make color copies. 

  • The last, and most important point, I like is the constant reminder that staff must resist the urge to jump in or take over a committee. Ultimately, one of the best tools an organization has for engagement and development is its committees. So it’s imperative that committee members have the license to stumble along without sighs, glares or retribution. This is also the quickest (and I think easiest) way to mold a committee that will become stakeholders; both with the individual committee as well as the board as a whole. Which will ultimately lead to less dependency, more involvement and less turnaround.

If you don’t follow Blue Avocado I strongly recommend you start. They have fantastic materials on board development.


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