At the January 20, 2015 meeting of LSPU, presenters Barbara Balow and Alice Ance-Matthews showed how committees are formed and work in organizations according to Robert’s Rules of Order, Newly Revised (RONR).

Committees get a bad rap as suggested in a sampling of quotes:

A committee is a group that keeps minutes and loses hours.

A camel is a horse designed by a committee.

A committee is a group of the unprepared, appointed by the unwilling to do the unnecessary.

In spite of their undeserved reputation, most members of organizations know that it’s in committees where decisions are made and work gets done.  Committees can be established for specific tasks or committees can be part of a society’s structure so that all things related to one topic are handled there.  A common example is the standing committee of bylaws that reviews bylaws regularly and suggests changes if necessary.

A committee for a specific task is sometimes called a task force, special committee,or an ad hoc group and they are given a charge by the entire body either with power or without power to act on their own.  An example of a special committee might be one to plan a fundraiser or to consider options for a more desirable meeting time and place.

Here’s a sampling of questions that were discussed.

Can anybody attend a committee meeting?

It depends on whether it’s a public body subject to open meeting provisions or if it’s a private body.  Generally, committee meetings are notopen to the full membership unless the committee seeks input for others in an open hearing.

Who should serve on a committee?

Here’s another “it depends” situation.  In the case of a group having a task forceto plan an upcoming fundraiser, it makes sense that everybody on the committee wantsto do a fundraiser.  On the other hand, if a group wants to get a wide range of viewpoints on a proposal of general interest it’s useful to have all views represented on the committee in order to gain support of the entire membership.

How often should a committee meet?

There may be society rules that specify how often a committee meets; otherwise committees meet when there is business to do.

What if the committee chair never calls a meeting?

A committee can meet upon the call of any two members.