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Four Tips to Keep Your Committee on the Rails

While serving as the lead on a massive capital campaign, Jewell Mitchell made one of the toughest calls of her professional life. She stopped a “dream team” of fundraisers dead in their tracks when she felt like the organizational values were being compromised.

It was a high-risk manoeuvre that could have seen millions of dollars walk out the door.

But in the end, it all worked out, and she learned a lot about the importance of sticking to your guns, even when it means potentially shooting yourself in the foot.

Here are 4 tips Jewell’s story can teach us about keeping committees on the rails:

  • Create a clearly defined operating framework. Make sure everyone on the team knows their individual roles and how they support the overall mission. And ensure they all understand the role the group plays in the success of your organization. That way, if things go sideways or if people encroach on other’s roles, you’ll be able to course correct without ruffling any feathers.
  • Assert your leadership. When you’re heading up a committee, the buck stops with you. Even though the group may consist of several high-profile experts, it’s your job to lead, not theirs. In a vacuum of leadership, people are going to step up. And it may not be in a way that you want them to. So, it’s best to establish the chain of command early on.
  • Make sure everyone understands the real reason for coming together. In Jewell’s case, it would have been easy to say that the committee was there to raise money. But in reality, they were there to empower young women. Focusing on the money alone would have done a disservice to the values that brought them all together.
  • Don’t just think about who needs to be on the team, think about the experience you’re creating for them. Everyone on your committee is there for a reason, and they’re all giving their time, energy, and expertise. To respect that, make sure you’ve put thought into how you want everyone to feel. Are the meetings free and open? Or are they strict and fast-paced? Do you communicate via email, or is it always face-to-face? Do you have a plan to make sure everyone is heard? Or do you just leave it up to the group? And most importantly, is it on-brand? Thinking about these things ahead of time will help align your team and make them more productive.

You don’t need to be a functional expert to lead a successful committee.

You just need to put the time in up front to keep everyone aligned.

To hear the full 20-minute episode “How you choose to do the work IS the work” on the Toughest Call podcast with non-profit leader, Jewell Mitchell, listen wherever you get your podcasts or online HERE

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