In an ideal world, all board members can meet at the drop of a hat to develop a strategic plan and deliberate on the best course of action if urgent challenges arise. However, that’s not realistic for all boards, especially large boards with members scattered across the country. This is why most organizations forman executive committee.
An executive committee is a smaller group of board members elected by their peers to address pressing issues. This group of leaders meets regularly (often with little notice) to make decisions about urgent matters that may alter the course of the organization. When organized and run efficiently, an executive committee can drastically improve the governance capabilities of the entire board of directors.
As the CEO or executive director of a growing organization, you’re constantly looking for ways to stimulate growth and improve your leadership structure. You’re well aware that your organization needs the best leaders possible in order to steer it toward a sustainable future. To help you establish an organized executive committee, we’ll cover the following:
Boardable works one-on-one with executive committees at all types of organizations. While each committee has its own unique quirks, they all largely follow the same structure and have the same core purposes. We hope you’ll see the value in the tips we offer and can carry it over to your organization’s operations. Now, let’s kick things off with the basics!
An executive committee is composed of elected board leaders and acts as a steering committee for the full board. Its main purpose is to facilitate decision-making between board meetings or in urgent and crisis circumstances. It has the power to act on behalf of the full board and is a steering committee for the board. It prioritizes issues for the full board to address, is responsible for overseeing board policies, and must ensure good governance practices.
The officer positions that make up the executive committee typically include:
Officer positions vary by organization, but most organizations’ executive committees typically consist of these roles. The larger the organization and its board of directors, the more likely it is you’ll need more officers on the executive committee.
Curious to learn more about what each of these positions entail? Check out our complete guide to board member responsibilities.
If the topic of executive committees is new to you, it’s worth learning the primary differences between it and the board of directors as a whole.
A board of directors is the governing body of an organization. It ensures that the organization carries out its mission and achieves its objectives. It oversees the organization’s operations, sets policies, makes major decisions for the organization, and is legally responsible for the organization’s activities. Boards establish standing committees (such as the executive committee) to address specific issues.
Together, the board of directors votes the executive committee into office, electing those who they believe will best suit the roles of each position. Board members define the specific duties of the committee. As such, the executive committee is a subset of the board of directors and is typically composed of three to seven members, whereas the board itself can range upwards of 30 members.
As we’ve mentioned, the executive committee has the ability to act on behalf of the entire board between meetings, such as in the event of an urgent situation. While the board may only meet biannually or quarterly, the committee is expected to meet frequently outside of board meetings to discuss any pressing work, typically on a bimonthly or monthly basis.
The board of directors will outline the exact provisions of the executive committee in the organization’s bylaws, meaning that exact duties will vary based on the organization’s unique needs. However, many duties overlap across all charitable and for-profit organizations.
The executive committee is usually charged with the authority to:
Boards usually have jam-packed agendas, and work done by the executive committee streamlines many of these activities so that time in the boardroom can be spent on the most important items.
While executive committees do hold a considerable amount of power, there are several actions that they cannot take. Some of which include:
These restrictions help to avoid delegating essential powers away from the board. Not to mention, delegating these activities to a smaller group of individuals limits the range of perspectives when compared to input from the entire board.
A well-structured executive committee can streamline the board’s work in the right situations. Wondering if it’s time for your board to establish its own executive committee? Here are a few common scenarios in which it’d be useful to form one:
While most organizations have an executive committee, there are a few instances in which assembling one might do more harm than good. For instance, it would be less beneficial in these situations:
As you make your decision, walk through this chart and address each of these common scenarios:
Determining whether your board of directors actually needs an executive committee upfront will save you time later on. You don’t want to waste time hashing out its responsibilities, finalizing the paperwork, and running the first few committee meetings just to find out that an executive committee actually slows work down. First, consider if the above recommendations apply to you, then deliberate with your board from there.
Technology can simplify many aspects of our lives, and board management is no exception! Board management software (like Boardable) is created to simplify your board and committees’ work. That way, your executive committee can streamline tedious tasks and focus on leading your board, not just managing logistics.
Designed for forward-thinking boards and their committees, Boardable can bring a new, improved style of board management to your organization. Whether you have established routines or are just now forming an executive committee, here are some of the responsibilities that our platform can streamline for executive committees:
With powerful tools like these on your side, your executive committee can maximize its time together and produce greater outcomes for the board as a whole. Want to test it out first before you buy? Claim a free trial and see what Boardable can do for your board and its executive committee.
Executive committees can generate immense value for the board of directors and organization as a whole for both for-profit or nonprofit organizations. As the board’s steering committee, it’s up to this group to make vital decisions in emergencies and boil down discussion items into what’s worthy of the full board’s attention.
These board officers have a direct influence on the board’s overall performance, so it’s up to the CEO and full board of directors to ensure the committee is made up of motivated officers who are assigned the correct responsibilities. With the right individuals as board officers, the entire organization will be set up to thrive.
Whether you’re forming your very first executive committee or revitalizing the structure of your current one, you should now be much more prepared to tackle what lies ahead.
Want to learn more about board management and setting your members up for success? Check out these resources from the Boardable team: