Identifying and Mentoring Committee Members for Your Affiliate

compiled by Ardis Bazyn

Participants on the call discussed the various components of developing excellent committees. Ideas expressed in this article came from both membership committee members and members from affiliates across the country. We appreciate the lively discussion and hope these ideas are helpful to your leadership.
Leaders should encourage members with particular interests and expertise to serve on the committees which would benefit most from their expertise. They should ask for interested members to request particular committee assignments. Some affiliate and chapter committee members are chosen by the president, particularly the chair, and others are chosen by the chair of the committee. It isn't always clear what members might work well on a committee, so asking for input from others is often beneficial, since they may know the capabilities of members and get them involved. To assist affiliates in finding committee members, a written list of duties for standing committees should be available so members know what each committee does. State the number of members on each committee and whether term limitations apply. Explain your expectations for members' level of participation and follow-through. Committee members need to know that the board expects committee reports at its meetings.
Each chair should be passionate about the work of the particular committee. The chair needs to be inclusive when holding meetings and assign each member tasks to perform. She/he should also be a good listener with give and take. The chair should allow committee members to share in major decision-making, rather than have a "my way or the highway" attitude. All committee members should be aware of what other committee members are doing.
Tips for chairs should be provided so they know what to do.  Goals should be outlined. Keep in touch regularly through scheduled meetings and e-mail. Time limits should be listed for meetings. Develop and implement incentives for completing tasks. If the chair expects reports from subcommittee chairs, they will more likely complete their tasks before the next meeting. 
Chapter committees may have an easier time to have in-person meetings. Conference lines and e-mail lists are two ways to keep committee members in contact with one another. Webinars are becoming popular, especially when sharing information. It is crucial to keep in mind the possible committee members' ability to use the systems you choose. Deaf-blind members may need different types of accommodations. Ask each member about his/her particular needs so that each can participate and fulfill the committee tasks most effectively.
The chair should recognize the success and follow-through of committee members, too. Sharing the load with all the committee members is valuable to the success of your committee. A board rep on your committees would add experience. A note-taker should be designated for each committee meeting. Even if the chair takes notes, taking notes can be a mentoring tool for members of the committee, since active listening is necessary to get specifics written. If a new note-taker does the follow-up notes, it would be helpful for them to know what aspects of the call/meeting are important to capture. When taking notes for meetings, all commitments must be noted. Either the chair or a designee should send reminders of upcoming meetings, including dates and times. Remind your committee members about the tasks they have promised to do.
Communication is essential. After the meeting is over, the chair needs to make sure notes are sent to the committee members in a timely manner. Committee members must be problem solvers, forward thinkers, and able to assist in developing your chapter or affiliate. When adding new members to a committee, the chair should greet and welcome new and continuing committee members and ask each to assist for some aspect of the committee. Appoint each to assist with a subcommittee if possible. Make sure each member of the committee knows the duties of your committee and how various assignments are related so the work gets finished on time. Delegating and follow-up are key elements.
Some states have leadership trainings where members can learn a variety of leadership skills. Some of these could be accomplished through conference calls instead of in-person training. Affiliates and chapters should have a meeting of all chairpersons occasionally and receive and review the goals of all committees so each knows the overlapping aspects. The chairs can discuss ways to work together in these overlapped areas. (Sister chapters could be formed to make connections, meet people and share ideas.)