As I’ve been connecting with Executive Directors and Board Presidents lately, I’m happy to see you focused on shoring up items related to your board structure. You’re reviewing processes and refining things like committee charters.
Committee charters are considered a necessary part of good governance and are essential for several reasons:
- Ensures you have a focus for each work group that aligns with your goals
- Allows you to recruit members to a clear purpose
- Serves as the guidepost for your meeting agendas
- Supports compliance with your legal commitments
Committees run more effectively when they have charters to guide the work.
There are key components you’ll want to include – feel free to use this template below.
1. Purpose: keep it short. You only need one sentence to describe why this committee exists. Refer to your bylaws to be sure you’re aligned with the original intent.
An example of a Philanthropy Committee purpose might be “The committee is charged with planning and overseeing the organization’s overall philanthropic efforts, including the board’s fundraising activities.”
2. Authority: not all charters include this but when they do, it typically copies language from the bylaws stating the committee has authority to carry out its responsibilities, indicates if there are any limits to their authority and allows outside counsel as needed.
3. Composition: describes how the chair and members are selected and indicates how many board members must be included and if non-board members can join. It may also include a minimum and maximum number of members and length of terms (one year, renewable is typical). It should also state who the staff liaison is.
4. Meetings: in order to allow for flexibility with standing committees, many charters indicate the committee will meet monthly as needed rather than try to nail down the exact number of meetings. Some are designed to meet quarterly and will state such. In addition to frequency, the charter may indicate if meetings can be attended by phone or video in addition to in person.
5. Responsibilities: this is the meat of your charter. It outlines the specific tasks the committee will carry out to fulfill their purpose.
For example, a Governance committee may state “Conduct annual board evaluation and act on results” as one of their responsibilities. A Property committee may state “Inspect facility and grounds twice a year and make recommendations to ensure safe, fully functional and aesthetically pleasing site.”
6. Minutes and Reporting: all board members must be kept informed of committee activities. Written minutes will be taken after each meeting and the charter will note when and how they will be distributed. When action is needed, committee chairs will make a report at the board meeting; otherwise it is common practice for board members to rely on minutes for information. These minutes will also be filed at the organization’s office in compliance with retention policies.
When you are organized up front and communicate well, you will save yourself headaches in the future. Nothing worse than a committee without a clear charter that’s left stumbling around.
Use this template to get your committees set up for success! And call me if you get stuck.