Committees - Responsibilities

Committees - Responsibilities

Being on a committee is a big responsibility, the future of the group and the quality of service depends on your participation.  There are some key responsibilities that committee members need to think about when they take on their role.

A committee must be honest with each other.  Not being able to fulfil these roles fully doesn’t automatically exclude anyone from being part of the committee but it’s helpful when forming the roles and managing expectation if everyone knows each other’s limits.  Roles can be split or responsibilities shared.

Public Interest – being part of the committee means that you have to have the best intentions for everyone involved.  Ensure that everyone is doing the best they can with the information and resources they have.  You could create problems for the group and the committee members if you knowingly act unethically or unjustly.   Liability and most insurance depend on the committee having a strong system and following that system for decisions and actions.  Make sure everyone involved understands their liability and how to best protect themselves when they are serving on the committee.

Transparency – as a community organisation, you have a duty to your members and donors to be transparent with your decisions and clear on your processes.  Committees that do things in secret and make decisions with only a minority’s interest at heart are acting unethically and could be open to personal liability.  Try to maintain a culture of transparency and create strong systems for decisions and actions.

Time – aside from the meetings there can be quite a lot of time that you might need to devote to the role.  You have the tasks associated with your position, the secretary will be writing minutes, the treasurer updating accounts, the fundraiser organising events etc and all of these take time outside the meeting.  There is also time spent supporting the group at the activities you deliver and being there when you get to your ‘all hands to the pump’ big events or fundraisers.  Make sure everyone understands the time commitment.

Capacity – some roles are more technical than others, some take more time and effort.  Make sure people have the skills they need (or the willingness and time to learn) to do the task.  Some things require specific skills and abilities (like being a treasurer) some things require the right kind of person (like being a member liaison or volunteer manager).  Think about how your group is going to support those committee members to do what they are being asked to do.  Part of this is also creating a culture where people feel comfortable to ask for help and don’t feel judged for not being able to do something.  We are all different and will fit in somewhere, but it could be that being on a committee isn’t right for everyone.

Self-governance – this is important for committees and boards of all organisations, but for those of constituted / unregistered groups, it’s doubly important as there is no legal personality or registration to protect you.  Self-governance is about all the members of the committee holding each other to account.  As a group, it’s about making sure that each member is fulfilling their agreed role and if not, why and what support can be put in place.  It’s important each member act ethically and with the group’s best intentions and challenges should be made if people are acting outwith that.  Committees should also challenge those that don’t attend meetings without reasonable excuse, don’t follow up on their actions or fail to keep promises without good reason.  A whole committee can be brought down by one or two rogue members so the whole committee must work as a team.  Part of this self-governance is also about support and being present and there for each other.  Don’t just dismiss people immediately, ask how they feel they can be supported.

Remember if someone isn’t working out for whatever reason you don’t have to wait until an AGM to remove them from the committee but you must fill their position with a new person or with a combination of existing people.  You can then verify and formally adopt that person on to the committee at the next AGM.

People can also resign from committees at any time but it would be a good part of your committee culture to encourage people to stay until the next AGM.  Even better if they can hand it over to their successor.  Depending on the reasons why they are leaving this is usually a reasonable request.

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