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BOARDS AND COMMITTEES

They are volunteers, too!
Look here for information and the latest techniques to develop your board or committee. The purpose is to help those who work or serve on nonprofit boards of directors or committees.

~April 2010~


ADVISORY GROUPS:

MANAGING THE GROUP

When an advisory group is selected and trained the manager of volunteers or designee has the responsiblity to manage or oversee the work of the group.  Here are the main duties to manage the advisory group.

Timetables

  • As soon as possible schedule dates six – eight months out for regular advisory group meetings.
  • Schedule meetings frequently enough to get through business, but allow time for circulation of the agenda in advance of the meeting and for follow-up action after the meeting.
  • Allow at least a week for members to read the agenda.
  • Avoid tabling papers. It is difficult for members to consider or consult on a paper which is not presented to them until the meeting.
  • Schedule meetings so that reports can be made in a timely manner to the committee chair or manager of volunteers.

Election/appointment of members

  • Officers and standing committee chairs are most often elected or appointed by the chair of an advisory body.  Doing this is usually the first order of business. 
  • There should be a report to the entire group on terms of office and who’s term will be expiring when.
  • It is wise to review the duties of each of the appointed or elected positions.

Procedural standards

Some advisory groups operate according to rules of procedures called standing orders, although in most cases, there are no formal standing orders. There are general conventions that operate worldwide in meeting procedure. Robert’s Rules of Order are generally preserved for use by government boards, but can be utilized by an advisory group if the situation warrants it.

Records of the meetings are generally called Meeting Summary and are a less formal brief summary of proceedings at meetings. The main reasons for keeping a meeting summary are to:

  • provide an authoritative source and permanent record of proceedings for future reference
  • provide formal evidence of decisions, e.g. appointments, financial allocations, authorized actions
  • provide a record of policy decisions made and the basis for them
  • provide a starting point for action to be taken in future
  • create an official record which can be used in legal proceedings
  • inform members not present at the meeting and any others of the actions of the body concerned
  • assist in the conduct of subsequent meetings
  • set out precedents for future occasions, in the case of rulings from the chair
  • provide documentary evidence for audit purposes

At some meetings, especially of bodies with less formal accountabilities, the term 'minutes' is sometimes replaced by the term 'notes'. Notes differ from minutes in that, typically, they are less formal, depending on the status of the committee/working party concerned. They are typically:

  • less detailed, involving a shorter précis of discussion
  • emphasizes action to be taken after the meeting
  • do not need to be approved at the next meeting.

Administrative Requirements and Procedures

Depending on the advisory group there may be a requirement to report undertakings, inititatives, or recommendations to someone in the admnistratiive structure other than the manager of volunteers

Advisory groups should keep a Meetings Notebook to serve as a historical record of the group.  It should be organized by the fiscal year used by the parent body.  It is likely to contain such things as:

  • list of members for each year
  • list of officers for year year
  • meeting summaries for each year
  • reports organized by the group by year
  • evaluation of the year
  • strategic plans for the group

Reports

Many times an advisory group is asked to study something and then produce a report.  When preparing a report note the following:

  • Write for the intended audience
  • What do they need to know to make a decision?
  • Be specific and concise
  • Indicate background information
  • Why has the matter arisen?
  • What are the issues;
  • Who are the stakeholders;
  • What are the relevant legislative, policy or other sanctions;
  • What action must be taken, when and by whom, and under what authority
  • A recommendation for action
  • State briefly the recommendation that needs to be adopted, by paraphrasing concisely the action to be taken
  • Attach relevant material
  • Correspondence, data, draft policy, etc. as required and state the purpose and relevance of the attachments in the main text of the report.
  • Prepare reports to be presented to other members of the advisory group or to the administrative leadership of the organization, as required by those requesting the report.

Follow up

Managers of volunteers are urged to follow-up on the work of the Advisory group.  A portion of each meeting should be feedback on how their efforts have been utilized or responded to.

  • Advise them of the outcome of the group’s deliberations - were their recommendations approved?
  • Take action as agreed at the meeting - write to third parties and inform them of decisions made.
  • Welcome feedback on how to effectively keep them advised of progress.

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