Traditional Committees Not Working? Try an Objective-Driven “Task Force”

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Are you seeing a decline in volunteer involvement on your organization’s standing committees?  Is it difficult to achieve attendance at meetings?  Are volunteers hesitant to “own” tasks between meetings and assume accountability for outcomes?  If you answered “yes” to any of the above, you are not alone.

As the role of volunteers continues to evolve, now encompassing baby-boomers, generation x and the millennials who are all experiencing different life challenges and opportunities, many professionals supporting non-profit organizations have been struggling to keep the traditional committee structure efficient and effective. Expanding time commitments, both personally and professionally, on the part of our volunteers has begun to erode the base of support that has provided the essential workforce in our non-profit groups.

One strategy that seems to be gaining traction in many of my organizations is the use of a “Task Force.”  Diverting from the traditional committees and creating a Task Force often provides flexibility and efficiency in accomplishing critical functions. Characteristics of a task force might include:

  • Narrow purpose with clear objectives
  • Specific expertise from selected volunteers
  • A specified and reasonable timeframe (typically not more than 6 months)
  • Independent thinking and initiative
  • Flexibility in meetings

One of our groups recently named a Task Force on defining member value.  Where this may have once been the responsibility of the “membership committee,” in this case, the group selected a cross section of members bringing a broad perspective to the task. The group was given 6 months to review, redefine, test and adopt new membership categories with accompanying member benefits, with a goal to increase members and thereby increase revenue.  The Task Force met quickly and often, utilizing face-to-face meetings, teleconferences, and email discussions to move the dialogue forward to presentable outcomes. The Task Force objective was met.  The Task Force was disbanded.

End result:

  • The task was accomplished efficiently and effectively
  • The group had a rewarding experience (seeing a final product to their efforts)
  • The organization benefitted from the outcome
  • The process required minimal staff and resources

This is one strategy that has some promise, and I expect more will develop as the volunteer profile continues to evolve.