Updated: Oct 27
Good board members know they are only as effective as the committees they chair. Very few have harnessed the power of a committee as well as Sarah Chase-McRorie. Sarah served on the CWBA board as a co-chair from 2009 through 2018, during which time she also served as the organization’s President in 2016-2017. The current board was fortunate to have Sarah attend a recent board meeting to share her wisdom about recruiting committee members and keeping them engaged once they join a committee.
Get to Know the Organization.
It is imperative that board members or aspiring board members understand and research the organization they will serve. First and foremost, understand the structure of the organization. What is the makeup of the leadership? How many committees are there and what are they? How does one advance in the organization?
Second, get to know the governing documents of the organization. Each organization should have a mission statement, bylaws, current and past budgets, and potentially a strategic plan. Sarah reminded board members how an understanding of these guiding documents helps board members throughout their terms.
Finally, get involved in the membership. Make sure to join the committees that interest you. To serve the organization, you must be familiar with its committees and get to know its people and processes.
Recruiting and Retaining Committee Members.
Sarah shared her sure-fire tips about how to recruit and retain committee members. Although a little more challenging in the time of COVID-19, the best way to recruit committee members is to attend events. However, try to avoid talking only to the people you already know. Challenge yourself to meet at least three new people at each event, and make sure to tell them about your committee and how they can get involved. Don’t be afraid to follow up with individuals to encourage them to get involved and always tap into your own network to invite your friends and colleagues to join your committee.
After recruiting new members to your committee, make a concerted effort to keep your members engaged and involved by creating macro and micro engagement opportunities. Each committee member will have different time commitments and different availability to help. Create opportunities that are not time consuming as well as the larger opportunities for those who are able and eager to put in more time. If you are having trouble getting volunteers, make sure to take meeting notes and send them to the full list of members who expressed interest in your committee. Then, follow up with people individually and ask them to help you with specific tasks. Be creative and use technologies like SignUpGenius to encourage people to volunteer.
Make sure to accommodate different schedules. Consider having committee meetings at a couple different times — e.g., lunch and after work hours — to ensure you are allowing for people with competing schedules to be able to join.
Serving on a board should be fun and fulfilling. Make sure to take the time to get to know your fellow board members. There are lots of interesting women who serve on the CWBA board and it is a great opportunity to develop lifelong friendships and networks. But remember, you are on the board for a reason, so don’t forget that board meetings are not optional. Stay engaged with the organization throughout your tenure on the board and create committees that develop your lasting legacy.
Board service offers so much fulfillment, and Sarah’s simple tips and tricks will ensure that you get the most out of any board service.
Megan Garnett is a CWBA board member who current serves as its Historian. Megan recently joined Simply Good Foods as Corporate Counsel. Megan was previously with Polsinelli where she was an Associate Attorney. After graduating law school, Megan clerked for the Colorado Supreme Court as well as worked for Gordon & Rees where she focused on litigation and employment activities. As a Colorado native, Megan is passionate about working in and being part of the Denver community. When she is not working, Megan spends time with her husband, her three-year-old daughter, and her English Bulldog, Juan Pablo.