Published: January 30, 2023


A committee is a group of individuals appointed or elected to perform a specific task or to make decisions collectively. It can refer to a group in a not-for-profit, business, government, or other organisations.

The members of a committee typically work together to discuss, debate, and make decisions on issues within their area of responsibility.

Committees in not-for-profit organisations, sometimes call sub-committees, typically report to the board of directors and provide recommendations and suggestions on specific topics.

Here are a some common examples:

Finance Committee: responsible for overseeing financial planning, budgeting, and reporting to the board.

Fundraising Committee: focuses on developing and implementing fundraising strategies and campaigns to support the organisation’s mission.

Audit Committee: oversees the financial reporting process, choosing the independent auditor, and reviewing both internal and external audit results. IN some organisations it might be combined with a Risk Committee.

Nominating Committee: responsible for identifying and recruiting new board members for the organisation.

Generally committees will vary in size and focus depending on the needs of the board and the organisation.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the role of a committee?

The specific responsibilities of each committee will vary based on the focus area. The committee member role often includes researching and gathering information, debating and discussing issues, making recommendations and providing advice, developing policies and plans, overseeing implementation, and communicating activities and decisions. Committees bring together individuals with diverse perspectives and expertise to work on a specific issue or task, playing a key role in decision-making and problem-solving within an organisation.

How many members should be on a committee?

The number of members on a committee can vary depending on the size and needs of the organisation and its board. Committees should have enough members to ensure a diverse range of perspectives and expertise, but not so many that it becomes difficult for the committee to function effectively.

Committees are typically between 3 to 10 members. Irrespective of the number of members the most important factor is ensuring that the committee has the appropriate expertise, resources, and representation needed to carry out its responsibilities effectively.

How do you build a successful committee?

Creating an effective committee requires planning. Start by establishing clear objectives and documenting a clear scope of work for the committee. Next establish a process for selecting or recruiting committee members (with the appropriate expertise, experience and commitment to serve) so that you can fill committee seats with the people who will contribute to its future success.

Ensuring that members have the right mixture of skills, experience and perspectives will mean they can effectively work through the issues they will be responsible for. Encouraging active participation from all members and creating an environment where all voices can be heard is also crucial for the committee's success. Establishing a conduct of conduct for the committee, realistic timelines and expectations, as well as providing the necessary resources and support, will also help the committee work effectively and efficiently. Remember it is important to annually review and evaluate the committee's performance, making any changes and improvements as needed.

How do you choose committee members?

Selecting committee members is an important task because the people who make up the committee will determine its success and how well it functions. Ensure you have taken the time to establish a documented process to for recruitment of committee members. Relevant expertise, background, knowledge and skills are important for the committee members to effectively fulfill their obligations to the board or organisation.

In many cases lived experience representation is important to consider, as the committee should reflect the diversity of the organisation or stakeholders it is making decisions on behalf of. In some cases a committee may be solely made up of board members, however the advantage of committees is also bringing in others who can't sit on the main board. It also allows you to bring in independent expertise and insight from beyond your organisation.

The committee's success depends on active participation from all members, so it is important to choose individuals who have the time and energy to dedicate to the committee.

While expertise, background, knowledge, skills and lived experience are important for many committees diversity of perspectives is also important. This allows for a range of opinions and ideas to be considered and helps ensure that the committee can make informed and well-rounded decisions.

You should also consider the size of the committee as it needs to be small enough to allow for effective decision-making and participation, but not so large that the committee becomes unwieldy.

By considering the above factors, organisations can choose committee members who have the right combination of skills, experience, and perspectives to ensure its success.

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Better Boards connects the leaders of Australasian non-profit organisations to the knowledge and networks necessary to grow and develop their leadership skills and build a strong governance framework for their organisation.

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