As organizations that largely run on volunteer power, efficiency is an important issue for nonprofit boards. Committees can be an effective and efficient way of doing work that is too detailed, complex and time-consuming for the whole board to address. Board committees enable boards to divide up the work of the organization and expedite it while using board time to manage routine tasks.

Forming nonprofit board committees also has additional benefits for board directors. Committees utilize the specific skills, talents and knowledge of the board members. In addition, committees allow for broader participation of all board members and foster leadership development.

The size of a nonprofit board and the board’s needs typically drive the types of committees that boards develop.

Types of Non Profit Board Committee Structures

Nonprofit boards generally approach developing board committees based on their most urgent needs. The board committee structure can take on the form of many committees or it can take on a three-committee structure.

Nonprofit boards can set up committees for nearly any purpose they may have. Committees can be standing committees that meet on a regular basis or ad hoc committees that meet for a specific purpose on a limited basis.

Here’s a list of some of the more common board committees:

  • Executive Committee
  • Program Development Committee
  • Nominating and Governance Committee
  • Finance Committee
  • Human Resources or Personnel Committee
  • Promotion, Marketing or Public Relations Committee
  • Audit Committee
  • Strategic Planning Committee
  • Legal Committee

In lieu of forming multiple nonprofit board committees, many nonprofit boards are opting for a three-committee structure for the sake of efficiency.

In a three-committee structure, boards set up internal affairs, external affairs and governance committees.

An internal affairs committee combines the functions of several other committees that all deal with internal issues. An internal affairs committee may address issues such as finance, capital, human resources, facilities and finance. Because some committees rely on the functions of other committees, it streamlines processes by having a group of board members all working on internal issues together.

An external affairs committee addresses all external issues. This type of committee is usually responsible for fundraising, public relations, marketing, publications and community involvement. Many of these areas also tend to overlap, so connecting with the proper board members is more convenient.

Governance committees are an important element of all boards. The governance committee ensures that the board continues to have a well-rounded, skilled board. Members of the governance committee recruit potential board candidates, interview them and make recommendations to the board. This committee also orients new members and provides continued training and education for them. Well-functioning governance committees ensure that nonprofits have well-functioning leadership at the helm.

An electronic board portal system is a tool that helps to increase the efficiency of a three-committee structure even more. Diligent Boards provides a secure electronic platform where committee members can communicate and collaborate on multiple levels for maximum efficiency.

About Other Types of Nonprofit Committees

Nonprofit boards that use a multiple committee structure should start the committee development process by writing a committee charter. The charter outlines who is eligible to serve on the committee, how many members it should have, how frequently they should meet, how often they should report to the board, and any other duties and responsibilities they should have.

Here are some of the more common nonprofit board committees, along with their purposes:

Executive Committee

The board chair and the board officers usually compose the executive committee. Executive committees sometimes act as steering committees for the whole board. Some nonprofits give their executive committees limited authority to act on behalf of the board when it’s not in session. 

Finance Committee

Finance committees are usually responsible for keeping track of the nonprofit’s assets and liabilities. Thus, members of the committee need to have some familiarity with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) rules for nonprofit organizations. The finance committee prepares and presents financial reports at regular board meetings and at the annual meeting. This committee audits the work of contractors and others and oversees the organization’s tax and investment strategies.

Fundraising Committee

Fundraising is a major activity for most nonprofit organizations. Many nonprofit organizations find that it’s more efficient to delegate many of their fundraising activities to a committee. Fundraising committees oversee and develop fundraising activities. Fundraising committee members work together to make decisions about the most advantageous fundraising opportunities to pursue. It’s common for fundraisers to hold golf tournaments, 10K runs, banquets and galas. Other activities may include holding raffles, sending out direct mail solicitations, seeking corporate sponsors or major donors, writing grants and finding other methods to generate funds.

Membership Committee

Membership committees record members and keep track of membership dues. In addition, they work toward enhancing member benefits, keeping members involved with the nonprofit, and working on strategies to acquire and retain members. Membership committees may arrange for annual membership drives to increase the nonprofit’s membership, which will help to increase revenue and volunteerism.

Organizing Nonprofit Board Committees for Efficiency

The key to making the most of board committees is to organize them well and to be clear about their duties and expectations. Nonprofit board committees should function as effectively and efficiently as possible. Committee members should acquaint themselves with their committee’s charter so they’re clear on the committee’s purpose.

Having about three to nine committee members works well for doing the limited, focused work that nonprofit committees require to be effective. Boards may consider allowing outside volunteers to serve on committees as needed.

Board committee members should also be clear on how often they’re expected to report to committees, who is responsible for making the board report, and whether that person will make oral or written reports to the board. The reporting person may be the board chair or any other person serving as a liaison between the committee and the board.

Nonprofit board committees are a valuable asset when they’re chosen and formed thoughtfully, their purpose is clear and members are dedicated to the work of the group. However, hard-working committees may outlive their purpose. For this reason, boards should consider annually which committees they need to form, continue or disband.