How do Boards let their committees know about actions that came out of a Board meeting? Well, some Boards have committee chairs who sit on the Board. For example, the Director of Membership is likely a Board member and the chair of the Membership Committee. Some Boards expect oral reports by their committee chairs at the Board meeting, and therefore they are present and hear the information. While these are not bad solutions, there is another option that may provide better use of the Boards time (individually or collectively) as well as the committee chair’s time. So what is the solution? Board Liaisons.
A Board liaison is a director or officer who is assigned to a committee. Their job is to represent the committee during the Board meeting and relay back to the committee any relevant information that came from the meeting back to the committee. The role of the Board liaison isn’t to do committee work, but rather be present during the committee meetings to provide high level guidance and guard rails. While doing this, the Board member is naturally aware of what activity the committee is working on and can relay that information as needed during a board meeting.
So what does the guard rails and high level guidance look like? Well, let’s say the Membership Committee comes up with an idea about recognizing new leaders within the organization. The Membership Committee’s Board liaison would be able to provide some high-level responses such as:
- We have an Awards Committee. Let’s pass this idea on to them so they can work on it.
- We already have a similar award called the Future Leaders Award. Let’s pass this over to the Awards Committee to explore.
How did the Membership Committee’s Board Liaison know about the Future Leaders Award? From previous Board meetings, most likely. But lets say they didn’t know from previous Board meetings because they are new. The Membership Committee’s Board Liaison could either reach out to the Awards Committee’s Board Liaison or would then likely suggest the implementation of the Emerging Leader Award during a Board meeting, and the Awards Committee Board Liaison would speak up to explain they already have a similar award or they are able to provide guidance on how to navigate the Membership Committee’s idea. (Hopefully, the latter doesn’t happen though because you’ve got an engaged Executive Director who could steer this away from the agenda because they too have a high level view and know the in’s and out’s of the association.) This concept works for other scenarios and will make your Board meetings higher functioning and your committees functioning within the scope of their work.
Communication is a two-way street. During a Board meeting, the Board liaison may explain what’s happening within their assigned committee. Sometimes it is important to have the committee chair present, especially if it’s a big initiative.
Before the Board meeting adjourns, the chair should remind Board Liaisons to reach out to their committees and bring them up to speed on what happened during the board meeting. These updates should include things like:
• Budget implications
• New policies
• Events coming up
• New initiatives
Interested in implementing the Board Liaison concept? Give me a shout and lets talk about how this might work for your unique organization!