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Committee work.

A member's guide to participation.

Committee participation offers both challenges and opportunities to the association member eager to get involved. Whether you are a committee leader or member, your are in a unique position to provide direct input to your association's leadership in the decision-making process. By studying issues facing your association and recommending courses of action, your work will become one of the most important tools your association uses to maintain efficient organization and forge new directions.

Enthusiastic involvement is the key to committee work, and the following guidelines can help you recognize your responsibilities and maximize your effectiveness as a committee participant.

Associations usually form two types of committees: standing and special. Standing committees operate indefinitely, and their functions are usually provided for in the bylaws and constitution of the association. They perform a continuing function necessary for the ongoing operation of the association. The membership committee, the finance committee, and the executive committee are examples of standing committees.

Special committees last for a finite period of time and are usually formed to accomplish a specific objective, such as establishing a special chair at a university or studying the need for a dues increase. Once the task has been completed, the special committee ceases to exist.

Chairing a committee

Strong leadership is the cornerstone of success in chairing a committee. The committee chair must clearly communicate goals and objectives to committee members and association staff, and committee meetings must adhere to a specific format that will guide the committee through all of the steps necessary to accomplish its given task. These guidelines should help you effectively lead a committee: * Always start the meeting on time and work with a definite agenda. Begin by briefly and clearly stating the reason for the meeting. * Make sure committee members get all the information - pro and con- relating to an issue. * Keep a low profile while taking charge of the meeting. This means you have to firmly enforce certain ground rules about decorum and interaction during the meeting, while at the same time stimulating active participation and constructive discussion. * Talk to the group, not to individuals. Speak clearly. If you cannot be heard, you cannot exercise control. * Make sure each individual taking the floor speaks clearly and audibly. Sum up what the speaker has said; then entertain discussion. * Keep the meeting moving. Get as much participation as possible, keeping responses short and to the point. Control aimless discussion by recommending further study. * Retain control, but don't stifle free comment. Invite constructive criticism and even disagreement, and ask for support. Clarify issues by obtaining a consensus; then move on. * Don't argue with the individual who has the floor. Ask questions if you disagree, but remember that as presiding officer you should remain neutral. If you have a comment, ask for the floor as a participant. * Check at the end of the meeting to see if members feel all relevant subjects have been adequately covered. Make sure accurate minutes are kept of each meeting and that they are distributed to each committee member.

Contributing as committee member

The success of a committee depends on the unique insights and contributions of each committee member. Committee members who become actively involved maximize the decision-making ability of the committee by asserting a variety of fresh ideas. Committee involvement depends on working with the committee chair and association staff to obtain as much information as possible about the specifics of the problem at hand and the framework of the organization as a whole.

Consider the following suggestions in approaching your role as a committee member: * Determine what the exact purpose of the meeting is and decide in advance how and what you will contribute to it. Study the agenda and any supporting materials carefully and ask for clarification if any items are unclear. Stick to the agenda during the meeting and bring up new business only at the appropriate time. * Follow the same rules of conduct as the committee leader. Speak clearly and audibly, and deliver comments that are brief and focused on the issue at hand. Wait until you have the attention of all the committee members before you begin your remarks, and speak to the entire group, not only to the person sitting opposite you. * Repeat remarks if you think they weren't heard, and if your remarks are lengthy or involved, sum them up at the end of your discussion. Someone may have forgotten your objective before you have finished. * Don't hesitate to comment, criticize constructively, or disagree. Know your subject, and ask for support from members who believe as you do. If you have a comment, ask for the floor rather than joining in aimless group discussion. If what you have to say is a genuine contribution and really does make a difference, don't let it get lost in confused conversation. * There may be dissenters on some subjects. Ask them to summarize their convictions in a direct statement. This permits a more thorough examination of an idea that could be highly constructive when completely understood. * If you disagree with the speaker, make your comments at the proper time. * Hurriedly passed motions usually don't receive the consideration they deserve. it is better to table them until the next meeting, when they can be discussed in detail, than to pass a motion you might regret later.

Meeting Structure

Following is the generally accepted order of business that is observed for a meeting: 1. Call the meeting to order. 2. Call the roll (sometimes omitted). 3. Present the minutes of the previous meeting (most often sent in advance). 4. State the purpose for holding the meeting. 5. State briefly the program for the meeting. 6. Discuss and resolve agenda items as they appear. 7. Consider new business. 8. Adjourn the meeting.
COPYRIGHT 1992 American Society of Association Executives
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1992, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Title Annotation:members' participation in decision-making
Publication:Association Management
Date:Jan 1, 1992
Previous Article:Key elected positions.
Next Article:Achieving goals.

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