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Why Volunteer Committees Fail and How to Make Sure Yours Doesn’t

The role of a volunteer committee is to support the nonprofit’s mission and goals by providing guidance, oversight, and support to the staff and leadership. Nonprofit committees are made up of volunteers who bring various skills and expertise that is helpful to the organization.

By bringing together volunteers with expertise in areas like finance, governance, fundraising, program development, marketing and communications and more, committees can help nonprofits operate more efficiently and effectively, achieve their goals and objectives, and better serve their clients and stakeholders.

👉 Read more about volunteer management

However, not all committees are successful. Here we outline the common pitfalls when working with a volunteer committee and provide solutions so yours don’t fall into these same situations.

why committees fail

🤔 Lack of Clear Goals and Objectives for Committees

Committees can fail if they do not have clear goals and objectives. Without a clear purpose, making progress toward a common goal and for members to stay motivated can be difficult.

Not sure where to start with creating goals and objectives? We got you!

  • Define the purpose:
    • Start by defining the purpose of the committee. What is the committee’s role? What specific issue or problem is the committee trying to address? This will help you establish a clear direction for the committee and ensure everyone is working toward the same goal.
  • Identify objectives:
    • Once you have defined the purpose of the committee, identify specific objectives that the committee needs to achieve to fulfill its purpose. For example, if the purpose of the committee is to improve volunteer recruitment, an objective might be to increase the number of new volunteers by 20% in the next six months.
  • Determine key performance indicators (KPIs):
    • To track progress toward the objectives, identify KPIs that will be used to measure success. For example, if the objective is to increase the number of new volunteers by 20%, the KPI might be the monthly number of new volunteer sign-ups.
  • Assign responsibilities:
    • Once you have identified the objectives and KPIs, assign responsibilities to committee members. Each member should clearly understand their role and responsibilities and how they contribute to the committee’s goals.
  • Establish a timeline:
    • Establish a timeline for achieving the objectives, and break down the objectives into smaller, achievable tasks. This will help the committee stay on track and progress toward the goals.

💬 Poor Communication with Volunteer Committees

Communication is key to the success of any committee. If members are not communicating effectively, information can be missed, and misunderstandings can arise.

 👉 Use POINT to schedule your committee meetings, know who is attending, and track all of the hours your committee members give!

  • Set clear expectations:
    • Set clear expectations for communication within the committee. Establish guidelines for how often the committee will meet, how committee members will communicate with each other (e.g., email, phone, in-person), and what kind of communication is expected (e.g., progress updates, feedback, questions).
  • Foster open communication:
    • Encourage open communication within the committee by creating a safe and respectful environment for sharing ideas, opinions, and feedback. 
  • Use technology:
    • Use technology to facilitate communication within the committee. Consider using collaboration tools like Google Docs or Trello to share information and track progress or a messaging platform like Slack to facilitate real-time communication.
  • Provide regular updates:
    • Provide regular updates to the committee on progress, challenges, and next steps. This will help ensure everyone is on the same page and can contribute effectively to achieving the committee’s goals.
  • Establish roles and responsibilities:
    • Ensure everyone on the committee understands their roles and responsibilities.
  • Celebrate successes:
    • Celebrate successes along the way to keep everyone motivated and engaged. Recognize individual contributions and accomplishments, and celebrate milestones reached as a team.

👥 Address Competing Personal Agendas

When individual committee members have personal agendas that conflict with the group’s overall goals, it can be difficult to progress toward a common goal.

Addressing competing personal agendas can be complicated, but it does not have to be! 

  • Make sure that the committee’s goals and objectives are clearly defined and communicated to all members. See the first section above ☝️
  • Hold committee members accountable for their actions and ensure they fulfill their responsibilities. Make sure that members understand that their personal agendas should not interfere with the committee’s work. See the section right above this one ☝️
  • Encourage collaboration among committee members to achieve the committee’s goals. Emphasize the importance of working together to achieve a shared vision and promote a culture of collaboration and teamwork.
  • Encourage open communication within the committee, and provide opportunities for members to share their ideas, opinions, and feedback. Ensure that everyone has an opportunity to speak and actively listen to what others have to say.
  • Establish conflict resolution strategies to address any disagreements or conflicts that arise. 
  • Take steps to screen potential committee members to ensure they are committed to the committee’s goals and objectives and are not motivated by personal agendas. 

😫 Lack of Participation and Burnout with Volunteer Committees

A volunteer committee requires active participation from all members to succeed. If some members are not actively engaged in the committee’s work, progress can stall, and the group can become ineffective. You may also see a dip in participation when committee members experience burnout if they are overworked or overwhelmed by the group’s demands. 

👉 Read more about volunteer engagement and detention

Lack of participation and burnout can be common issues that committees face and can significantly impact the group’s effectiveness. Here are some ways to address these issues:

  • Before taking action, it is important to identify the underlying cause of the lack of participation or burnout. Is the workload too heavy? Is the committee lacking clear direction? Are members losing interest in the committee’s goals? Understanding the cause can help you develop a targeted plan to address the issue.
  • Reach out to members who have become disengaged or show signs of burnout. Ask them what they need to become more engaged or to overcome their burnout. Listen actively and seek to address their concerns.
  • If the workload is too heavy, consider re-assigning responsibilities or adjusting the timeline for completing tasks. Ensure that members have a reasonable workload to manage alongside their other commitments.
  • If members struggle to participate due to a lack of knowledge or skills, provide training and support to help them build the necessary skills. This can also re-energize members and increase their engagement in the committee.
  • Celebrate the committee’s accomplishments along the way to keep members motivated and engaged. Recognize the contributions of individual members and the group as a whole.
  • If the underlying cause is not easily addressed, consider restructuring the committee to better align with the organization’s goals or address issues contributing to the lack of participation or burnout.
  • Be open to feedback from members about how the committee is functioning and how it can be improved. Use this feedback to adjust and improve the committee’s structure and processes.

Committees can play a vital role in the success of nonprofits, and through intentional relationship building, your committees can take off and DO MORE GOOD in our communities. 

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Photo Brandy Strand
Brandy Strand
Nonprofit Partnerships Account Executive

No guilt trips, no sad stories. Just a chance to do something good.