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What’s the one committee that nearly every pregnancy help organization currently has in place and is ready to be fully functioning? The Executive Committee!
Traditionally the executive committee includes all the currently elected officers of the Board along with the Executive Director (ED) or Chief Executive Officer (CEO). Some include a “past president” who is still functioning as a board member. A few larger organizations have a Chief Operations Officer (COO), as well as a CEO, and include this person on the executive committee as well.
What does the executive committee do?
In a typical non-profit organization, the executive committee does three primary things:
- Process and establish items for the next board meeting,
- Interim-decision making, and
- Board-focused planning (special meeting schedule, board growth and development).
While these are the primary things an executive committee may do, there are some other unique things they may need to address – like board conflict and parliamentary concerns (specifically board member terms and such).
Preparing for the next board meeting
“No red meat” says a seasoned former board chairman of a national non-profit organization. He encourages the staff and the executive committee to work through items so they are properly “cooked” for the board meeting. This includes gathering relevant details, analyzing the information, understanding potential pathways, and, perhaps, providing a recommendation to the whole board. How much the executive committee (or staff) does in advance of a board meeting to prepare is a discussion unto itself. Nevertheless, with the Treasurer (financials), Secretary (previous minutes), and CEO (operations and services report) providing most of the key elements for the meeting, this committee does the heavy lifting in ensuring the information necessary for the board meeting.
Decisions between meetings
Occasionally, an urgent decision is necessary that cannot wait until a full convening of the board is possible. Depending upon accessibility, the board may be polled or consulted electronically (e-mail or even text) and a consensus or majority position may be determined. When that is not possible – in a case where board members do not regularly respond to email in a timely fashion – the executive committee members can more readily convene to provide a decision, if only a temporary one until the board can come together.
Meeting about board stuff
The Board chair or president should always be focused on board health, both practically and spiritually. It is the wise Board leader who involves the executive committee in this as well. Anticipating gaps in board terms, discussing the need for strategic planning opportunities, and evaluating the board calendar are all things an executive committee should be doing. Including the executive director/CEO in this provides the day-to-day leader an opportunity to help coordinate and leverage his or her knowledge and sphere of influence on behalf of the board.
Whether this group meets offline extensively,- or for a few minutes prior to the board meeting, it is important to build a cohesive leadership group that ultimately serves the board as a whole and the organization it serves. The executive committee must be careful not to become a “board within a board” by commandeering too much authority not specifically designated by the bylaws. As in all areas, board members must seek wisdom in how to work together to accomplish the vision and mission of the organization.
Note: The executive committee is not to be confused with “executive session” which is intentionally excluding the CEO/Executive Director from all or part of a board meeting. Executive sessions should be infrequent and generally when the topic is specifically about the chief executive.