Matty Bowers 2015 Q&A: Committee Management

Many committees in the OTW, particularly those associated with the Archive, struggle with huge amounts of work combined with difficulties retaining active staff. What do you think is the Board’s role in remedying this problem?

Thankfully this isn’t as prevalent as it used to be. At heart, this is is mostly a committee issue, Board should only be involved in an advisory position. They should only take direct action in cases where a committee has completely fallen apart and needs to be rebuilt.

A few things Board can do:

  • Publicly and privately acknowledge the work committees and volunteers do.
  • Act speedily on proposals/decisions presented for approval.
  • Understand how the committee is doing and adjust expectations as needed.
  • Communicate with chairs regularly.
  • Respond to emails. Preferably promptly.
  • Cheerlead. Chairing can be a thankless job and knowing Board is on your side can make all the difference.

If an OTW committee fell apart and the chair, now alone, asked you for advice on how to rebuild it, what would you tell them?

First, breathe. I know it’s overwhelming, trust me. Remember, you are not alone – the other chairs are ready and available for help. Talk to Board and other chairs and figure out what your committee’s mission is – start small, don’t try and take on more than you can handle. Next, look at what you have. Break down what you need, step by step. List these in order of priority and start working. It’s probably going to take at least a year to get things back on track, so be patient. Don’t get frustrated if you hit speedbumps, those will happen. Again, reach out to fellow chairs – I can’t emphasize this enough. Document everything; it’s your job to make sure no one else ever gets left in the same situation. Once your committee is up and running again, celebrate. Turning a committee around is a difficult job and you deserve all the kudos in the world.

A number of you have expressed a desire to support the OTW’s committees and ensure they have the resources they need. However, the OTW is a volunteer-run and donation-funded organisation, and resources are finite. Please help me understand what factors you would take into account when prioritising the allocation of resources.

One thing I learned as a teacher is that resources are only finite if you let them be. There is no end to the different ways resources can be acquired if you put your mind to it. In the OTW’s case, there are a variety of different ways Board can help ensure committees have the resources they need. For instance, there are many tools that are free or charge less for nonprofits – Board can help facilitate switching over to these new tools. These new tools can often make tasks more streamlined, therefore lightening the workload on volunteers. Board can also help better promote the OTW and it’s projects; this can lead to an increase in attention and volunteers. Traditionally nonprofit Boards often help with fundraising; they can reach out to potential donors which could help the OTW financially.

With a well managed, proactive Board, our resources don’t need to be finite – as long as we budget well, we should be able to provide our committees with everything they need..