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Free Yourself from the Committee Treadmill

runners_feet1You don’t have to go the traditional committee route. Seriously. We’re giving you permission, right now, to dump your Development Committee. And even your Campaign Steering Committee. We’re not saying dump the people. Just lose the structure if it’s not serving your purposes.

Sure, there’s a time and a place for these auspicious groups. But standing committees can become burdensome. Staff can spend too much time preparing for and following up on committee meetings. Committee members end up dragging themselves to meetings and feeling guilty before, during and after for what they’re not accomplishing

The emphasis becomes the agenda, the meeting, the committee, all at the sacrifice of the real work at hand.

Set yourself and your volunteers free.

Here are just two examples of how our clients have moved beyond the traditional committee structure while motivating their volunteers like never before:

Instead of a Campaign Steering Committee, create a Green Team!

An executive director recognized that her board could easily burn out when faced with a $3.5 million capital campaign and a major expansion of the organization. Instead of asking any of them to serve on a traditional campaign committee that would be at least a two-year commitment, she created the “Green Team.”

The Green Team is made up of anyone on the board who, in the current moment, has prospects assigned to them and specific tasks or activities to be fulfilled. For example, they might have three people they’re supposed to call and invite to a tour of the construction site.

Members of the Green Team come to weekly meetings until their prospect assignments are complete. New people roll on to the team as new assignments are made. Some members roll off and then roll on again when a new prospect is added to the list.

At this agency, it has become an honor to be on the Green Team. It is regarded as an elite group, serving at the very heart of the capital campaign. Members want to stay and in order to do so, they have to be working their list and adding new names.

The Green Team is the antithesis of the frustrated, bored campaign committee. They are an engaged, committed and accountable group that supports action.

Instead of a Development Committee, work one-on-one with your board members!

After setting some ambitious goals for growing an individual giving program, a development director felt ambivalent about her development committee. She knew the members’ contacts were critical, but the monthly meetings had become stale. And they focused more on what she should be doing than what the committee members could be doing.

This happens a lot with development committees: board members want to contribute, but they feel they’re being expected to provide direction and oversight, rather than create specific plans for their own work.

Our client approached the development chair and proposed a process of member “activation.” Instead of trying to get the entire committee to fulfill their assignments all at once, she would focus on one person each month and do everything in her power to make that person successful in their fundraising efforts.

By giving each person a full month of her time and attention, she was able to harness their interests and motivations and make things happen. One board member threw a party at her home, another did a letter writing campaign to his network, and a CEO on the board recruited five new sponsors for the annual gala.

The thing about committees is they can get stuck in the “one size fits all” rut. Not everyone can commit to the same amount of time. They can’t all do the same things. And you don’t have the resources to try forcing them to do anything.

Here’s the bottom line: what is the work to be done and how can you and your volunteers make it happen? The answer probably doesn’t reside in your by-laws.

We invite you to step off that treadmill and take a fresh look at mobilizing your volunteers. Shake off the notion that you have to have a development committee because you’ve always had one. Put together the team you actually need in this moment and see what transpires!

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