Avoid “Committee Anarchy”

Tips for Keeping Committees On Track

By Raymond Dickey
Publisher, AssociationHelpNow

Many associations have committees. These committees work on behalf of the board of directors. Social committee, architectural committee, newsletter committee —regardless of the type of committee, it’s function is to assist the board in gathering and reviewing information and planning and executing events and projects. However, one thing all committees should have in common is that they must work at the board’s discretion.

Committees encourage resident participation, provide a wide range of advice and viewpoints and free the usually overtaxed board members to concentrate on their dozens of responsibilities. But if a board is not careful, an out-of-control committee can become a major distraction. Many times this starts with one person, usually a committee chair, who doesn’t understand they serve to assist under the board’s guidelines, and not their own. The board has a fiduciary responsibility to the community, so keeping committees in check is an important part of safeguarding the association. A committee that’s gone rogue doesn’t just wreak havoc with the board and residents, they could create liabilities for the association.

The fear of committees running amok leads many boards to resist utilizing them — but that’s a mistake which hurts both the board and the community. Having unit owners involved in what’s going on creates support for the board as well as a harmonious community atmosphere. So how can boards enjoy the benefits of committees without the fear of “committee anarchy”? The first step is, of course, not to allow any committee to swerve out of control. So how is this done? Here are a few simple guidelines:

  • The board should clearly define, on paper, the goals and objectives of each committee.
  • Establish a board liaison for each committee. The board liaison should attend each of that committee’s meetings.
  • Have clear rules about how often and when each committee needs to meet and submit official reports to the board.
  • If applicable, make sure there is a budget for each committee, and confirm they adhere to it.

These simple steps can set an association’s committees on the path toward productivity and harmony. Any board with good committees should be proud of itself for establishing them as well. I always tell people, don’t discount the community aspect of community living. Communities aren’t just made of houses, roads and sidewalks. It’s the atmosphere — friendliness, fun and a sense of camaraderie — that make a community not just nice or good, but great.

Tell us about your experiences working with volunteer committees. What works for you? And, what doesn’t? Share your insights here.

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