12. Starting on the committee – induction and commitments

What is my role on the committee?

To begin with you will be finding your feet. Try to make sure that your new organisation gives you an adequate introduction – if possible treat it like a work induction and meet with the chair (or other members of the committee) and agree some introductory meetings, readings, etc.

What would a typical induction/introduction consist of?

Unfortunately, typically many organisations carry out the introduction of new committee members inadequately. But ideally a good introduction would consist of a pack of useful information and some meetings with key staff/volunteers and committee members. The information should include; the constitution, the annual report, accounts, recent minutes (and dates of forthcoming meetings), list of committee members (and contact details), volunteers and staff, newsletter, plan, photos and anything else that will give you a flavour of the new organisation (perhaps a recent well written grant application). In more organised organisations there may even be a ‘job’ description. It is also generally helpful to meet with a selection of committee members (some newer, some experienced or founders). Observing first hand any activities can also be a very helpful way of getting to know the organisation.

How long will I be expected to remain on the committee?

It depends on a number of things, but usually it is one of the following 3 options;

either the length of office specified in the constitution (commonest is a 3 year term with an option on a second term of office)

or a vague idea that has evolved to be custom and practice for that committee (could be anything from a year to ‘life’ or until you find a replacement for yourself).

Or a specific commitment that you agree with the chair when you come on the committee (generally anything less than 18months to 2 years is too short to make a useful contribution).

Should I take on a specific role on the committee?

Initially you should concentrate on finding your feet in your new role on the committee. Unless you specifically signed up to take on a particular role (i.e. you signed up knowing that you were going to be the new treasurer for instance) then it may be unwise to volunteer (or be volunteered) for other roles until you have been on the committee at least 6 months (research shows that most new committee members feel that it is a year before they are making a useful contribution to the committee).

Once you feel settled and confident in taking a full part in committee meetings you can consider taking on a specific role.

Next FAQ: Job Descriptions for specific roles – chair, treasurer, secretary etc
Previous FAQ : How do you become a committee member?

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A Word About Words

This site is aimed at those who govern (control) small organisations - whether they are charities, companies, both or neither. Those who govern them may be called a variety of names. We have chosen to use mainly 'management committee' and occasionally 'committee member' or 'trustee'. more...
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