Committees are considered the workhorses of any organization. Much business is discussed, investigated, and carried out in committees. This chapter concentrates on the two types of committees found in organizations: standing committees and special committees. It explains the purpose of each and the important role of committee chairmen.
A committee can do only what the organization asks it to do; it cannot act independently of the organization. However, if a committee originates an idea that it feels will benefit the group, it can bring the idea to the assembly in the form of a motion.
The bylaws should state who has the power to appoint the members of committees. Whoever has the power to appoint members of a committee also has the power to appoint the chairman and to fill vacancies.
The secretary lets members know of their appointment to a committee and gives the committee chairman the proper documents so that the committee can accomplish its assigned work. If a motion is referred to a committee, the secretary needs to give the chairman a copy of the motion and the instructions that go with it.
The committee chairman should preserve all documents given to him or her and return them to the secretary in the same condition in which they were received. In standing committees, the committee should keep a record of its activities and place them in a file. This file becomes a continuous record of the activities of the committee and is given to the new committee chairman each year.
Standing committees are listed in the bylaws and are considered a permanent part of the organization. Members of a standing committee usually change when new officers are elected, but the purpose of the committee and its functions and duties do not change.
The standing committee has certain functions to perform that are essential to the harmonious operation of the organization. When the board or the membership receives business that is connected with the work of a standing committee, it usually refers that business to the committee. The committee investigates and then reports back to the board or membership. Examples of standing committees may include finance, program, or membership committees.
The other type of committee is a special committee, also called a select or ad hoc committee. This committee is created to perform a specific task and is dissolved when the task is completed and the final report is given. The membership should not create a special committee to do something that is within the designated function of a standing committee.
Special committees have two functions. One function is to investigate. For example, if an organization wants to buy a piece of property to build a permanent clubhouse, a member could make a motion to create a committee to research this possibility. The other function of special committees is to carry out what the assembly has adopted. For example, if the motion to buy a piece of property is adopted, then a member could make a motion to create a committee to carry out the purchasing of the property.
The purpose of a committee determines its size as well as who is appointed to serve on it. If a special committee is created to investigate a question, it is important that all the different views of the membership be reflected in the committee members. This practice allows many differences to be resolved in the committee instead of at the assembly meeting, where they take up a lot of time. Such a committee is thus usually a large one in order to represent all viewpoints.
If a special committee has been created to carry out something the membership has adopted, only those in favor of the membership's wishes should be on the committee. If members who are opposed to the action are on the committee, the action may not be carried out or could be delayed. This type of committee is usually a small one so that the members can easily meet and get the work done.
The committee chairman is the most important member of a committee. He or she is responsible for calling the committee meetings, overseeing all the work, and completing the work. Most committee chairmen are appointed by either the president or an executive board. Sometimes the assembly elects a chairman and committee members after it has voted to establish a special committee.
When selecting a committee chairman, those who do the appointing should select someone who is enthusiastic about the committee work, has the time to devote to the committee, and knows how to do the work. This person should also be able to work with others and inspire them to do the work. The other committee members should be appointed for what each can contribute to the work of the committee and for their ability to work with others on the committee. Committee work is teamwork, not a one-man band.