Being on a committee is not always an easy task. In fact, sometimes it can be downright frustrating. A three-month commitment can stretch into six months; meetings can go on forever; committee members may drift off topic; and precious, limited time can be hijacked by strong personalities. After a while, the old saw about too many cooks spoiling the broth starts to feel all too true.
On the other hand, committee work can also be one of the most rewarding “extracurricular activities" for HOA board members and non-board residents alike. It can be a true community-building endeavor, drawing different residents into the fold and pairing up individuals with common interests who might not meet otherwise.
When committees work well, they serve as a vital and important tool in aiding the board. After all, a committee’s intended mission is to support and assist the board in carrying out its responsibilities to the association. Dysfunctional committees however, can have the opposite effect, creating long-lasting negative issues for both the board and the community at large.
Reasons for Failure
“Committees are fantastic structures; they serve to include the broader community,” states Jasmine Martirossian, author of the best-selling book Decision-Making in Communities: Why Groups of Smart People Sometimes Make Bad Decisions. “Unfortunately, there exist a lot of anemic committees: they're lost, limping along and just existing, serving no purpose and having no clear goal,” she says. There are many ways to describe these foundering committees, but most fall under three main categories.
Lack of Commitment
Erin Barnhart, director of volunteers at Idealist (an international non-profit organization that connects individuals with nonprofit jobs, volunteer opportunities, and organizations around the world) believes that when committee members lack a commitment to the common goal, “Disillusionment with the process arises, and the goal will fall apart.” According to Barnhart, this lack of commitment can often be attributed to committee members being appointed for the wrong reasons. “When individuals are put on committees as a favor to a friend or for political reasons, they don’t necessarily have a vested interest in the cause or purpose of the committee,” she says. Martirossian agrees, and suggests that when recruiting or replacing committee members, "It's important to communicate the purpose of the committee clearly to participants, [and explain] how the process will benefit them and what they will get out of the experience.” This will help to ensure a better-invested group of committee members.