Welcome to this introduction to roles and responsibilities within committees, for small charities and voluntary groups by Support Cambridgeshire, a partnership between CCVS and Hunts Forum.
This short online module will give you an understanding of what a committee is, the roles and responsibilities within a committee, as well as some tips for success.
It is supported by a transcript and guidance links, that will take you to additional resources and information.
What is a Committee?
Every community group or organisation (most are Associations) and registered charity has a governing body, a group of people that manages its affairs or leads it into the future.
Most community associations and all charities have a constitution (or set of rules). A section of this defines the committee, including its size and how often it should meet.
The committee tends to be drawn from members of the association and is elected by them, usually at an annual general meeting (AGM). A very small group may meet informally and have no elected committee.
In this instance the entire association is the management committee and so are responsible for managing its affairs. Many associations with modest aims and activities run very successfully like this.
There are often different roles within a committee, and I will talk through these during this module.
Although responsibilities may vary within a committee, all members have the same legal and financial responsibilities.
Roles within a committee
The chair is a trustee with a specific role on the board, they are elected or appointed, the main responsibilities of the chair are to
- lead meetings of the committee, acting as the chair, moving the meeting forward.
- Ensure clear policies and priorities, keeping you on track.
- Act as the main spokesperson, for example, representing you group at functions, meetings or in the press.
- takes urgent action (but not decision-making unless authorised) between meetings when it isn’t possible or practical to hold a meeting.
- Then also, depending on the size of your group, supporting, and supervising the staff or chief executive and acting as a channel of communication between the board and staff team.
The responsibilities listed aren’t exclusively roles for the chair, but this gives you an understanding of what the role can include.
In addition to chair, some boards have the specific role of vice-chair.
The vice-chair’s role varies from charity to charity. In some charities the vice-chair acts as a deputy for the chair, taking on the chair’s role when the chair is absent. In others, the vice-chair is the ‘chair in waiting’ or ‘chair designate’ and will take over the chair’s role in the future.
There is also the Treasurer.
Generally, the treasurer helps committees carry out their financial responsibilities.
They might do this by:
- presenting financial reports to the board in a format that helps the board understand the charity’s financial position.
- advising the board on how to carry out its financial responsibilities.
- working with professional advisors
- overseeing the preparation and scrutiny of annual accounts
In small charities they take on some or all day-to-day financial duties, such as book-keeping, budgeting, and preparation of reports.
The work of the treasurer can vary significantly, depending on the size of your group or charities.
Then there is also the secretary.
Not all groups will have a secretary role, but it can help ensure that someone is taking lead on the admin and organisation of committee meetings.
They would generally be responsible for
- Recording the decisions of the Committee
- Ensuring minutes and papers are sent out in advance of meetings and that rooms are booked, or online meeting requests sent.
- Dealing with any correspondence on behalf of the group.
You might also have sub-committees, depending on the size of your association or charity, to help you tackle particular tasks or topics.
More detail on these roles can be found on this web page, including links to template role descriptions.
What are the shared responsibilities of a committee?
Members of a committee are essentially a team that have joint responsibility for keeping a community group or charity on track.
For example, it is important to review your activities to ensure you continue to deliver what you were set-up for. The way you are involved will depend on the size of your group or charity.
Following your rules
Whilst some committee members might lead on elements, all should be familiar with your constitution. The constitution will set out things such as how often meetings should take place or who is entitled to attend.
Planning events & activities
If you are a small charity or association, members of the committee will likely play keys roles in the day to day running of your group’s activities, as well as making decisions about your future and finance’s.
Finance & Fundraising
Every committee member is responsible for making sure that the association accounts for its money properly. Fundraising is also an important task. This can include working out a basic budget and how your groups will raise funds.
Policies and procedures
Depending on what your group do, you will need policies and procedures to ensure you are doing it safely. Common policies needed by groups include health & safety, data protection and safeguarding. More information about policies is included within this module’s transcript.
Equal opportunities is something that should underpin everything that your group does, from running it’s activities to running its committee. The committee should ensure that is welcoming and considerate to all members and that all voices are heard and respected.
Insurance and liability
You will need to make sure you that have the right insurance in place, depending on what your group does. You can watch ‘introduction to insurance’ 0n-demand module for more information on this.
Get help if needed
Remember that you are not alone, and you’re not expected to know everything. Get expert advice if you need it and talk to your local CVS for support.
You can watch our ‘what trustees do’ on-demand module for more information on the responsibilities of trustees.
In summary, here are some tips for running successful committees.
- Stay open and welcoming, this can help you develop the skills on the committee and bring in new viewpoints and ideas.
- Think about how you can develop your committees’ skills or whether there are skills gaps you would like to recruit for
- Can you offer flexibility, for example, can you arrange meetings at time that will suit people that are working or have caring responsibilities
- Make sure meetings are constructive & to the point, that different opinions are valued, and everyone is treated with respect
- Try to ensure the committee stay in the loop & get involved, this will help you move ideas forward and make the most of the team
- Know, remember, prioritise the group’s purpose, this should be what you always go back to
- And act as ambassadors, the committees can help raise awareness of your group, so be proud and champion what you do.
We hope that you have found this module helpful. Please do contact us on firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like further support. Thank you.
NCVO have pulled together resources on common policies needed by groups.
Getting on Board provide guidance on role descriptions along with free guidance on trustee recruitment.
The Charity Commission provide guidance on what’s involved being a trustee. This is created for registered charities however some of the guidance can also be helpful for unregistered charities.
Reach Volunteering have their Trustee Recruitment Cycle, depending on the size of your group these resources can help with committee recruitment.