What is the role of committees?

Board committees can give extra attention to any part of a board’s business (including finance and audit, remuneration, learning and participation, development) but must have clear terms of reference including any delegated responsibility. Many boards now also have a Nominations committee to oversee the appointment process for board members and succession planning for chair and CEO/director.

It is usual for an organisation’s constitution to set out a framework for committees, which may include a minimum number of trustees, or other reporting structure.

Membership of committees can include specialist outside knowledge and thus can be a useful way of introducing potential board members to an organisation.

Committees should be chaired by board members so there is a direct line of reporting to the board.

Committees do not have to be long-term and can be set up to deal with a particular project, such as a property committee for a capital scheme.

Advisory groups can also be used to gather feedback and advice, and if they have no decision-making powers, their methods of working can be more informal.

A word of warning: committees can take up a lot of time to organise, attend and minute. Care should be taken to ensure that they are not over-used but give genuine value.

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