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Committee Goals and Work Plans – Do I Really Need Them?

Amy Schiffman
August 10, 2017

If you are following my blog lately, and you’re interested in board development, you may have noticed that I’ve referenced the need for board members to be spending spring and summer months planning for the year ahead (assuming a July 1 fiscal year) – and that the outcomes of this planning should involve standing committee goals and work plans.  I’d now like to discuss the path to the development of these 2 key planning documents.

Let’s first cover the “who”:

It may seem obvious that the entire committee should be involved with the development of committee goals and work plans, but many committee chairs take it upon themselves to develop goals on their own and then share them with their committee.  While it’s good practice for a committee chair to come to a meeting prepared with thoughts about goals, it’s also good practice to engage the committee in the development of these goals, solicit feedback, and allow the committee to offer additional, or even alternative suggestions.  In other words, this is a group exercise and chairs should be seeking buy-in from their committee members.  Therefore, the committee should play a major role in goal development.  Then, once the goals are developed and agreed upon, the committee (as a whole) should develop the plans to achieve these goals – aka – the work plan.

Now the “what”:

The goals answer the question, “What is it we aim to achieve this year?” and the work plan answers the question, “How will we achieve our goals?”  The first speaks to the identification of macro needs in each committee area and the second to the question of strategy.  And if you are wondering where the ideas for macro needs come from, you are asking the right question.  Committee goals should stem from your organization’s strategic plan (but that’s another blog…).

When developing goals and work-plans, think simply.  Again – what is it your committee strives to achieve over the course of the next 12 months?  For a marketing committee it might be a new website, a new social media strategy or a public relations program.  Goals should be SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, results-focused and time-bound) – so don’t stop at a new social media program – define what that looks like for your organization and determine realistic objectives and deadlines.  The work plan allows us to define the strategies and tactics we will employ to achieve each goal.  Here you should get as specific as possible about who will do what, and by when, for each step along the way to goal achievement.  The work plan for the social media goal might reference an editorial calendar that includes messaging, task ownership and deadlines.

And last, the “why”:

Just as the strategic plan serves as a road map for the board’s work, the committee goals and work plans serve as a roadmap for standing committee work.  Committees that begin the year without these planning tools tend to have trouble seeing the big picture, wander off course, and end the year feeling they may not have been as productive as they had hoped.  Volunteers who feel their time is not put to good use do not stick around very long.  Most of us like to follow a plan and seek to understand our role in making it happen. So – take the time now to ensure your goals and work plans are in the final stages of development and ask each committee chair to present them during the first board meeting each fall.  This ensures that your board has an opportunity to provide feedback to each committee and is aligned in the work they will do as a team this year.

I have provided a committee goal and work plan template for your convenience as this week’s freebie and look forward to hearing about your progress!