LESSON 24 OF 40: Should Most Standing Committees Stand Down?
How many standing committees are needed for effective governance?
THE BIG IDEA FROM THE BOOK: You can assume that the standing committees of your board were created with the intent of enhancing governance effectiveness. However, times change and so too does the board’s work. In Lesson 24, the authors caution that the committee structure used by the board should be flexible and meet the changing needs of the ministry. That’s why boards are encouraged to regularly assess how standing committees are functioning and then to weed out those that are no longer relevant.
Except for the committee or two that are mandated (an audit committee, for example), inclusion in the ministry’s bylaws or board handbook shouldn’t be read as a promise of eternal life. Most committees must regularly prove their worth to governance effectiveness, or stand down.
MY FAVORITE INSIGHTS from Lesson 24, pages 130-134:
• “A good rule of thumb is the fewer standing committees, the better. Only use a committee if it adds value.”
• “Committees should not take on a life of their own, nor should they overshadow the board itself.”
• “Keep in mind that committees are meant to be tools boards use to get their work done. The right tool for today may not be the right tool for tomorrow.”
MY COLOR COMMENTARY:
In concept, standing committees seem a great way to focus board members’ time and attention on issues of greatest importance to advancing a ministry’s mission. The divide and conquer approach that committees provide to managing the responsibilities of the board is handy and efficient. In reality, however, board committees are too often the doorway to micromanagement, second guessing, and deep dives into administrative minutia. This happens most often when board committees mimic administrative functions (which is most of the time).
Absent a governance-focused reason for being, standing committees can be more trouble than help. But give board committees a clearly stated, up-to-date, governance-centered purpose and the results are remarkable. Agreement about the why of their work keeps standing committees steady on their governance feet.
REBEKAH BURCH BASINGER is an independent consultant for board development and fundraising who works mostly with faith-based nonprofits and ministry organizations. Over the years, her consulting practice has been enriched by service on the boards of numerous organizations, beginning with her children’s daycare center, extending to MAP (Medical Assistance Programs) International, ECFA (Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability), MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) International, and currently, Lancaster Theological Seminary. She and her husband, Randall, live in Dillsburg, Pa., and are the parents of two adult sons and grandparents of seven exceptional grandchildren.
TO DO TODAY:
• SURVEY board members to determine satisfaction levels with committee work.
• REVIEW charges to the standing committees for relevancy, clarity, and accountability.
• VISIT the ECFA Knowledge Center to read and then share the short chapter, Lesson 24, “Should Most Standing Committees Stand Down?”
NEXT WEDNESDAY: On June 24, 2020, watch for the commentary by Tom Okarma on Lesson 25, “Compensating the CEO—It’s About More Than Money. Getting the compensation-setting process right must be a priority.”