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What Does a Board Program Committee Do?


Jacqui Catrabone

As a nonprofit board of directors, you have a number of basic responsibilities. From determining the organization’s mission and purpose to orienting new board members and assessing board performance, you oversee a variety of things.

One of the most significant responsibilities of a nonprofit board is determining, monitoring, and strengthening the organization’s programs and services. This duty should fall in the hands of your board’s program committee.

The program committee plays a vital role in achieving strategic plan goals, and an ineffective or non-existent committee can wreak havoc on your organization.

If you’re part of this committee, it’s important that you have clarity about the role. So, let’s review the duties of the program committee.

5 Responsibilities of the Program Committee

     1.  Advise the board on industry trends and strategic challenges relating to the mission of the organization, and assess community needs for programs and services.

There’s undoubtedly a research piece involved with the program committee. You must have a pulse on the community you serve. What are the challenges they’re facing? How can your organization help? On a global scale, what’s happening in your industry? It is not the committee’s personal responsibility to conduct this research, but to ensure that the leadership and staff is aware of industry trends and completes a community needs assessment at least once every 3 to 5 years.

Once you have these answers, it’s your responsibility to relay that information to the full board. From there, you can facilitate a conversation to evaluate your current programming and identify any opportunities for new programming.

     2.  Ensure that programs are developed and implemented that meet the needs of the community and achieve desired outcomes.

After the research is complete, you’ll have a better understanding of the needs of your community which will in turn allow you to develop effective programs. A key piece that’s often missing from this step is the creation of a logic model.

A logic model is the program’s roadmap which identifies inputs, outputs, and desired outcomes for the program/service. This tool will help your committee effectively plan your programming.

     3.  Identify key indicators for measuring the quality and success of programs.

This responsibility focuses specifically on quantifying the outcomes identified in your program’s logic model. For example, ‘reaching a certain number of individuals’ or ‘providing a certain number of food packages’ will show the program’s level of success.

Ask yourself, what indicators should be tracked to demonstrate success? And, how will we know if our program achieved our desired outcomes?

     4.  Track program indicators.

After your committee has identified program indicators, it’s important to track and review them quarterly. Program dashboards help streamline the data and make it easy for the committee to review benchmarks, program goals, and satisfaction. This dashboard can and should change based on committee needs.

Another piece to ensuring program effectiveness is doing program evaluations annually. These can be as formal or informal as your organization wants them to be, and may include board conversations, interviews, focus groups, external data, etc. Evaluations keep continuous quality improvement at the forefront.

     5.  Plan and implement strategies to increase awareness and participation in programs.

Effective programming deserves attention! If your committee has developed a program that effectively addresses community needs, the next step is to take it further with strategies that increase awareness and participation.

How can you get the word out about your program? Can you run digital ads or send an email chain? Who’s not participating and how can you reach them? Implementing thoughtful strategies will only help your programming be more successful. Your board committee can help brainstorm effective strategies and help to get the word out in the community.

It is often said that if a committee has a good chair, then it is a good committee. The role of the Program Committee Chair is pivotal for guiding the work of the committee as a whole.

The Program Committee Chair should take on the following responsibilities:

  • Plan and lead committee meetings

  • Assign tasks to committee members

  • Monitor the group’s progress and communicate with staff members assigned to the committee, if any

  • Resolve conflicts among committee members

  • Arrange for the committee to evaluate its work at the end of each program year — or at the completion of its task — to determine whether it did what it had set out to do, and what worked and didn’t work

  • Serve as the liaison between the committee and the Executive Director, Board Chair, and the full board

  • Ensure that appropriate reports are submitted to the board, and keep the ED and Board Chair informed about the committee’s progress

With a strong Program Committee Chair, meetings will run smoothly and have an effective agenda of work. These program committee meetings are the appropriate space to act out the responsibilities of the committee.

Now that you have clarity on the duties of the program committee, you have the ability to be an effective committee member, which will better ensure the development and implementation of effective programs.

If you do not have a program committee or your program committee needs more guidance on any of this information, don’t hesitate to reach out to Strategy Solutions.

With more than 25 years of experience, we’ve worked with both nonprofit and for-profit companies through organizational change and growth.

Debra Thompson and Jacqui Catrabone are licensed consultants, trainers and peer reviewers for the The Standards for Excellence:® An Ethics and Accountability Code for the Nonprofit Sector. Contact us today!

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