If your association is like most associations, you have a board that is full of committees. From membership and public relations committees to fundraising and legislative committees, your board may not even be able to take action unless that action is proposed by a committee.
For professional associations of all shapes and sizes, this can present a dilemma: how do you garner the attention of your committee members and focus it on your association when these members have full time jobs and responsibilities that pull them in opposite directions?
When you, as an association director, are able to put some thought and time up front into this scenario, you can foster committees that are effective and full of action.
Where Do You Start?
In the past, many associations have relied upon standard formatting: regular – monthly, quarterly or yearly – board meetings that are broken down into committees for certain time frames. Perhaps the committees attempt to meet in between board meetings, but generally, the action stops there.
How do you handle situations that could use attention in between regular, in-person meetings? Do you rely on phone conferences that have low attendance rates or even lower levels of participation? Do you take a “wait and see approach?” From one association to another, the answer to this question may vary; however, the problem still remains the same: finding a way to connect committee members in order to keep your board focused can be an arduous, difficult task.
It doesn’t have to be this way.
With personal experience working inside of membership associations and with the input of many other associations, our team developed Social HubSite – a platform designed specifically for membership associations that’s meant to engage, share and connect with members on a regular, online basis.
This offers a stark contrast from standard social media networks and communities that are full of distractions and a lack of focus. Instead, inside of Social HubSite, groups based upon committees can be created and communication can become an ongoing, enjoyable process for all members, instead of a once or twice a year event.
But, it doesn’t stop there. Once you establish a system for connecting your committees, there are steps you can take to boost their effectiveness.
1. Express the Importance of Committees
When members volunteer to serve on committees, they may or may not understand how important committees are. If this is not clearly expressed, they may not be as active as they would be if they had a clearer understanding.
To get the point across, reach out. Share posts about the importance of committees and how they may be responsible for driving board action. Explain that committees keep associations running and growing. The more important the position becomes, the more time committee members may be willing to put into service.
2. Foster Regular Communication
If communication doesn’t happen regularly inside your online community, members won’t have a reason to keep checking back – this means that items requiring action could easily be overlooked. To overcome this common obstacle, share information on a regular basis. Look for articles that relate to your association’s industry, share member stories about what’s happening around your membership area and post light content that is engaging. The more engaged your committee members are, the more they’ll work toward the good of your association.
3. Allow Members to Get to Know Each Other
How many times have you gone to networking and social events where you may know a few faces or names, but the relationships stop there? How detailed can your conversations really be when this is the case?
Your association’s committees are no different. Sure, members may know other members. However, if they’re not communicating regularly, the action they’re able to work toward is limited. Use your online community to start conversations. Ask starter questions to get discussions moving, post surveys to find out where members stand on certain issues and introduce new members as they are added to your group for best results.
4. Post Regular Board Updates
It’s possible that members of your committees might not be in tune with what’s happening at staff and board meetings. When this is the case, it can be hard to make informed decisions and recommendations. It’s your responsibility to ensure this doesn’t happen.
Minutes, depending on how detailed they may be, can only go so far. Consider creating a monthly – or bi-weekly – status update that gives highlights of what’s going on. Share what’s happening in other committees (if possible) and within each of your staffed departments. The more up-to-date your committee members are, the more connected they’ll feel across the board.
Yes, committee action depends upon the participation of members. However, from an internal perspective, there’s a lot that can be done to foster this action. Look for ways to incorporate the 4 actions above into your member engagement efforts, starting today.