Appointment and Use of Committees

As a board member, do you ever feel that you and the remaining board members are on an island alone? Nobody understands what you do, much less appreciates what you do. But, they are more than willing to criticize everything you do, often because it adversely impacts their use and enjoyment of their property. You and the remainder of the board feel overwhelmed by the amount of work there is to be done to run your association. And while the manager can be a tremendous help, you can’t afford to pay them for everything you would like to have done. So what do you do?

Have you thought about committees to help out? If not, you should consider this very useful tool. Many bylaws allow the board to appoint committees for any number of purposes. Even if your bylaws are silent on the subject of appointment, the Colorado Revised Nonprofit Corporation Act says, with certain restrictions, the board has the authority to create one or more committees of the board and appoint one or more directors to serve on them. Some committees are standing committees that will function on a continual basis. Others may be created for certain, limited functions, and when they are done, the committee is disbanded. Some of the more common committees are finance, covenant enforcement and social.

We’ve all heard the refrain “We can’t get anybody to serve on our committees. We’ll just end up doing the work ourselves anyway.” So how do you get members to serve on your committees?

In our experience, members refuse or fail to serve on committees for a variety of reasons:

  • Lack of time, or inability to determine the time commitment;
  • Unclear about what they are supposed to do;
  • Lack of appreciation for the work they do.

The board should address each of these legitimate objections in a variety of ways. First, the board should be clear about what the committee’s purpose is, how many members it wishes to serve on the committee, the committee’s authority, limits on the committee’s authority, how often the committee should meet and when the committee is to report back to the board. It is always best to be specific about these matters, particularly the committee’s purpose, its authority and limits on its authority. Some committees may have this already defined for them in the association’s governing documents (e.g., a design review committee), but many will require the board to give some serious thought to what it wants the committee to do, as well as the necessary authority. Be realistic about what you want the committee to do, and the amount of time it will take to do it. If the tasks seem too great, maybe it is better to split the committee into two separate committees and assign their roles accordingly.

Once the committee is up and running, it is important to recognize the work the committee members do. This is more than the occasional thank you. It is also accepting the work the committee has done. If the board has been clear about what it wants the committee to do, and the committee members have put in the time and effort and reported back to the board with recommendations, then the board, without good reason, should not disregard the committee’s recommendations. If the board does choose to not accept the committee’s recommendations, the board should be able to explain to the committee why it has chosen to do so, so the committee doesn’t feel that its time and effort was wasted.

Committees can be a tremendous help to boards, and can give members who don’t have time to serve on the board, but who are willing to give back to the community, a means of doing so. If you have specific questions about creating and working with committees, please let us know.