A Governance Committee can have a big impact on your nonprofit board

Highly recommended on my list of things that nonprofits can do to improve the work of the board of directors is to create a full-blown Governance Committee.

Also known as a Board Development Committee, the Governance Committee is much more than a nominating committee. While recruiting new board members is a big part of the job of this committee, other assignments can include:

  • Developing and recommending the “recruitment matrix” or board composition strategy for full board approval. This serves as the guide to recruitment — and gives the full board a role in determining exactly what types of skills, knowledge and attributes are desired on the board.
  • Creating a rigorous recruitment process (refining what is already in the bylaws) that brings in strong candidates willing to meet their board member obligations
  • Conducting the annual self-evaluation of the board and facilitating a board discussion around the results of that evaluation
  • Facilitating one-on-one self-assessments by existing board members
  • Developing and conducting orientation programs for new board members
  • Developing the board manual or handbook
  • Developing a new board member mentoring program
  • Assessing the education needs of the full board and working with board and staff leadership to develop appropriate training programs
  • Evaluating board and committee structure and governing processes, and recommending appropriate changes
  • Reviewing the bylaws and recommending changes as appropriate
  • Creating and ensuring a good “exit” process for board members whose terms are expiring
  • Developing strong processes for leadership development and transitions
  • Overseeing the development of a policy framework

From the list it’s pretty clear that this committee has lots to do! I like Governance Committees that have from 4 to five members on them, including the Executive Director. (My preference is for a committee of five). That gives you enough bodies to give each committee member a project to manage (e.g. one person might be the recruitment manager, another the board evaluation manager) etc.

A stint on the Governance Committee is a great way to develop future leadership for the board as this committee is devoted to thinking and acting to ensure board excellence.

Did I mention that the committee should also enjoy getting together? The Governance Committee for the Rhode Island Council for the Humanities met for many years at a well-known “bakery-cafe” that was a half way point for committee members. The location gave members a chance to share coffee, goodies and life happenings in addition to the work on the agenda.

When I’m hired to help boards get better at what they do, the very first thing I set up is a Governance Committee. You can read a bit more about how that worked for the House of the Seven Gables Settlement Association on the case studies section of our web site.

Try one. You may like it.


2 responses to A Governance Committee can have a big impact on your nonprofit board

  1. Terrie Temkin

    I agree whole-heartedly about the value of a Governance Committee. Your list of responsibilities is the most inclusive I’ve seen. Thanks for your thinking on this matter.

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