Four Keys to Committee Success
Common Ground, May/June 1985 – Community Association Institute
Somewhere along the line committees got a bad name. They are often thought of as being time-consuming and unproductive. It’s not that they deserve to be viewed in such a negative light, but that others expect the wrong things from them.
WHAT IS A COMMITTEE?
The purpose of a committee is to gather information and make recommendations to the board of directors concerning specific issues or areas of interest. Many times the board win expect the committee to come up with a solution to a problem. While this may occasionally happen, it isn’t always possible. it is not the responsibility of the committee to do so; the board has the final authority to resolve issues. In the process of investigating a matter, however, committees will frequently shed some new light on the subject at hand or uncover a previously undetected angle to the situation. At the very least, committees can provide the board with the opinions of the association members. In this way committees are useful vehicles to broaden communication between the board and association members.
KEYS TO EFFECTIVENESS
What can make a committee function effectively and run smoothly? The following four points are essential considerations for forming active and involved committees.
Key 1. PURPOSE.
The board of directors must clearly define what the committee’s primary objective is. The goal of an architectural review committee, for example, is to preserve the aesthetic qualities of the community. It is up to the board to make the committee members aware of the scope of their responsibilities. The committee should also understand that, according to the bylaws of the association, they make recommendations, they do not set policy. It is the board’s responsibility to change policy, if necessary, in order to solve problems, using the information and suggestions the committee provides. If the board does not support or take the committee suggestions into consideration, the members win lose interest and ultimately become less involved.
Key 2. PROCEDURE
All committees need to adopt a set of procedures and methods for conducting their business. Such procedures often include using Roberts Rules of Order, setting regular monthly meetings, keeping minutes, and making written reports to the board of directors. No meeting can function properly without structure. The board should establish procedures and designate someone to monitor and help guide each committee. The “monitor” should be thought of as a resource, not as a substitute chairman. If in the early stages committees need more guidance, the person entrusted with this duty should attend the first meeting to help the committee understand their purpose and to help them create their structure and set their goals. The monitor should contact the committee chairperson about once a week to find out how the committee is coming along with its activities and to offer support or assistance. Once the committee is fully functional, the monitor can cut back on these check-ups. If the board member or manager becomes too involved in the workings of a committee, he runs the risk of becoming a committee of one. He should, however, continue to maintain some contact in order to keep an eye out for possible problems. The chairman should be a strong leader who can keep control over the proceedings of a meeting. Weak leaders who do not – or will not – set and follow procedures can be very destructive. There is nothing less productive and more frustrating
than attending a meeting where there is no order.
Key 3. SPECIFIC OBJECTIVES AND
The board of directors must set forth the specific objectives that the committee members are trying to achieve and die deadline for doing so. One of the objectives of an architectural review committee, for instance, is to develop and establish architectural guidelines and standards. The reaching of specific goals, such as this one, in a timely manner is how the committee ultimately accomplishes its overall purpose. If the committee looses sight of its goal, it could become issue oriented. It is important for each member to differentiate between the goals of the committee and their personal goals. Many times residents may become members of a committee because of their own personal needs, and thus they tend to lose sight of the goals of the association.
Key 4. REWARDS
This is the most important key. if rewards are given, they will almost guarantee successful committees. Rewards are easily given, but frequently overlooked. The recognition and appreciation expressed in a simple thank-you note, an article in the community newsletter thanking the committee for its time and effort, or a plaque or certificate presented to the committee at the annual meeting all go a long way toward involving members. Committees whose contributions are acknowledged are more wining to give their time and effort to the association. If everyone understands what the committee’s purpose is and what is necessary for it to operate effectively, then the outcome should be positive and the word committee can become synonymous with success.
Who Should Do What
Boards need to understand the different types of committees in order to assign them tasks and functions which are compatible with their interests. Members on administrative committees such as Finance, Architectural Review, or Personnel, for example, enjoy decision-making and paperwork. Thus, the Architectural Review Committee should not be assigned the job of selecting or monitoring a community painting contractor. Members on operations committees such as Maintenance or Pool like to work with subcontractors on a detailed basis. Therefore, the Pool Committee should not necessary be expected to put on pool parties. Members of program committees such as Improvements, Social, or Communications like to do things, hold parties, plant trees, bring the Police Chief in for a discussion on burglaries, etc. Another type of committee is an ad hoc committee. Some roles for Ad Hoc Committees include: Elections, Community Goals, Bylaw Amendments, Management Agent Selection, Pet policies, etc. These committees are an excellent means of inviting former president, board member, or committee chairman to commit his time for a brief period to a special task that he is familiar with by virtue of his previous association service.
Carol Murphy is Senior Property Manager of GDG Services, Inc., which manages over 30,000 units in Dade and Broward Counties, Florida. She currently manages 14 associations that are in transition.
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