LEADer - 2012 Winter

Topic: 
The role and potential of board committees
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We hardly ever hear about a board without also hearing about its committees. Why is this? Why do boards use committees? And what can board do to make better use of their committees?

In this issue, we aim to provide an overview of key guidelines to ensure that your board’s committees are effective and contribute to the board and the co-op’s success. We recommend a clear committee charter that spells out the committee’s purpose, key duties, accountability, and operations, so that the board and its committees are aligned. We also offer a number of guidelines for effective committee operations – either standing or ad hoc. Finally, we offer an overview of typical committees used and found to be useful by food co-op boards, as well as an overview of the specific role of the executive committee.

Finally, we provide a template to help prepare clear committee charters for your board’s committees. We hope you find this issue helpful and that your board committees help contribute to your board’s on-going effectiveness for years to come.

There’s a Committee for That! – Martha Whitman
“Committees have great potential for adding value to the board, because it’s easier for a small group than a large group to explore an issue in detail and to gain expertise on it. Committee meetings tend to offer a less formal setting than regular board meetings, which makes it easier to explore different perspectives.”

Consistently Competent Committees – Marcia Shaw 
“The success of any working group depends on its members and their cohesion and commitment. Approach recruitment with care to build a group that is excited about its task and committed to the success of the co-op.”

What Committees Do We Need? – Paige Lettington
An overview of standing versus ad hoc committees, and the most typical (and effective) standing committees used by food co-op boards of directors: finance, member engagement/outreach, nominating and board development, policy/governance, and executive.

The Executive Committee: Why Bother? – Lucinda Berdon
Here’s an overview of the key purposes of an executive committee, and the story of how the executive committee contributed at a critical time for one food co-op. “This last responsibility, stepping in during a crisis, doesn’t come up often. But recently our board faced such a situation and having an executive committee proved enormously valuable.”

It Works for Us: Member Engagement Committee – Martha Whitman
A “case study” of how La Montañita Co-op has found a key role for a committee that many food co-ops struggle with – the member engagement or outreach committee. “Our membership engagement committee is (now) our most popular one…. We’re a lively group, using our combined brainpower to conjure up interesting projects. “

Study Guide – Committee Charter Template – by Cindy Owings
This issue’s study guide offers a template for a board committee charter, with guided questions to help you succinctly outline key aspects of a committee’s responsibility and accountability.

As always, we hope you find this issue useful and would love to hear how you adapt or use it to your co-op. Send your suggestions, comments, experiences, reactions, and/or new scenarios and resources that you develop, to [email protected].

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