Skip to main content

Committees and Increasing Volunteer Involvement

Our district has a good group of volunteers. But we would like them to be more involved. We have established several committees. The committees usually start off with a lot of enthusiasm. They meet for a while then attendance drops off. This concerns us. We know the volunteers have a limited amount of time to spend. But we believe it is important for them to be involved in the district’s operation. We believe their input is important and their participation is beneficial to our organization. What can we do to get them more involved and participate?

You said you have a good group of volunteers. That is good. It sounds as though they are delivering the services to the community. That is good. You want them to be more involved. That is good. You establish committees. That can be good or not so good. You state the committees start off with a lot of enthusiasm and then attendance on the on the committees drop off. That is not so good.

Committees, work teams, advisory groups, and so on, usually sound like a good idea. Someone says, “let’s form a committee…that will solve all our problems…Volunteers love committees.”   Really? Do you believe that?

You also may have “designated committee goers.”  These are individuals who enjoy going to meetings and discussing “everything under the sun” but are not always productive. If you want effective committees and involvement of your volunteers, the committee work must be productive and produce usable work product.

Committees can be good. However, there are some basics issues for committees to be put in place.

Committee Structure and Procedures
With any committee, there are basics which need to be put in place. These include the structure of the committee and the operating procedures. Structure includes such things as the size of the committee, selection of members, the chairperson, etc. Operating procedures include such things as how meetings are conducted, parliamentary procedure, how often the committee meets, record of what transpired at each meeting, retention of meeting minutes, etc.

These are important because they provide consistency. Lack of consistency and confusion can result in frustration and volunteers’ lack of interest. This dramatically affects your ability to retain volunteers.

Five Critical Issues for Successful Committees
The structure and procedures are important, but these are these are “blueprint” items. However, in establishing committees, there are five critical factors that must be addressed for the group to be involved and the committee work successful.

1.       The purpose of the committee. Why is the committee meeting? Is it necessary to have a committee? Are there alternatives to having a committee?

Examples of committee purposes can be:

·         Developing policy or procedures

·         Establishing criteria for personnel positions

·         The design/specifications for new apparatus or equipment

·         Planning an event such a new station opening or volunteer recruitment open house

2.       What is the target of the committee? What is the measurable output of the committee work? How is the result going to be measured? This target should involve a time frame. When is the work of the committee to be completed?

3.       How do committee members collaborate and work together? What are the assignments given to each committee member. How are disagreements dealt with and resolved? If you have a clear purpose, specific work product, time specific and work assignments, it will greatly improve the interaction among committee members.

4.       How much control does the committee have on the outcome or final work product? This is a key factor. If they do not have some degree of control and the ability to make choices, what are they really accomplishing? If they are tasked with making a recommendation, how effective is the recommendation going to be. It also includes the ability to expend funds. This is an important factor for committee involvement and effectiveness: are they entrusted with tangible responsibilities?

5.       Who does the committee report to and how often is their work reviewed? Who is the committee responsible? Who reviews their progress and provides feedback to the committee? Reviews are important so adjustments can be made to avoid problems that can become obstacles. If you have an employee, you periodically evaluate their work and provide them with feedback. A committee is no different.

Committees do provide an opportunity for volunteer members to discuss issues of importance to them. Make sure your committees are both effective and effective with the time they spend together.

To have efficient committees, you need structure (as to the composition of the committee) and operating procedures (how the business of the committee is conducted).

To increase involvement and have your volunteer committees be successful, implement five critical factors:

·         A clear purpose for each committee.

·         A specific target/work product for each committee that is measurable and time specific.

·         Collaboration among committee members with assignments and interaction.

·         Identified degree of control and choices the committee members.

·         Periodic reporting and review of the committee work and progress. Feedback must be provided to the committee members regarding their progress.

These factors can help committees be productive resulting in an improved level of satisfaction. This satisfaction greatly aids in being able to effectively retain volunteers.