Today’s guest post is from Kim Donahue. Kim is the resident governance expert at Boardable. In a fun tongue-in-cheek tone, she shares a perfect formula for making sure your board committees don’t work! And she knows. With over 30 years of nonprofit experience, Kim was named one of the “100 Community Heroes” by the United Way of Central Indiana on their 100th anniversary. Boardable is an online board management portal that organizes everything that goes into running a board of directors in a way that leads to increased board engagement.

The Recipe for Nonprofit Committee Failure

By: Kim Donahue, Nonprofit Governance Coach at Boardable

Nonprofit boards are made up of individuals with different expertise and interests. How can you harness a board member’s experience without overloading them? Committees offer the perfect way to leverage individual knowledge to get even more done.

Committees can be highly beneficial to a nonprofit board, but only if they are healthy and well-run. Let’s go over what NOT to do when structuring or managing nonprofit committees.

Nonprofit Committee Failure Formula

  1. Be sure to have a vague purpose for the committee. If you want a committee to implode, invite various members to be on it, but with no clear objective or reason for existing. For success, be sure each committee has a specific area of focus. Common examples are a governance committee, fundraising, and a marketing / communications committee.
  2. Don’t specify roles for individuals. In the worst committees, no one is providing direction to the group, and no one knows who to report to. For optimal failure, have a few people who think they are in charge, with no guidance from the board! A healthy committee should have a leader who can help guide the group, report to the board at large, and communicate needs and requests to the organization and staff.
  3. “Silo” the committee with no interaction with staff or other committees. Render a committee completely ineffective by restricting their ability to find out how their operations impact anyone else. On the other hand, help a committee do their best by having easy access to key staff members that closely align with their responsibilities and subject area. This ensures that your nonprofit committees can build relationships with staff and know who to reach out to if information or assistance is needed.
  4. Start a new committee for every new challenge that arises. Each fundraising event, every volunteer day, and every revision of bylaws should have its own standing committee that meets regularly all year long, even if they have nothing to work on. This is a crucial ingredient for committee failure! If you’d like to avoid everyone dropping out of your committees though, consider ad hoc groups. These are perfect for short-term projects that need focused attention, but not a permanent committee.

By safeguarding your committees from this recipe for failure, you ensure a healthy and productive environment. Keep goals and expectations clear, communication open, and keep committee service simple. Your organization will be all the better for it.

If you like this, you’ll love the replay of the “Ask Coach Kim” webinar at

And for how board members can help with fundraising during the pandemic, check out 21 Ways for Board Members to Help With Their Nonprofit’s Fundraising at

21 Ways for Board Members to Engage with their Nonprofit's Fundraising book image

You'll discover the 21 ways each board member can help their nonprofit's fundraising - even if they don't like to ask for money!

As a bonus, you'll get free fundraising tips every other week too!

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