How do committees work?

The committee of Air-Stream Wireless is made up of eight people, who meet regularly to make decisions about the direction of the organisation. Further committee is responsible for making sure that the organisation sticks to its aims and objectives as detailed in the the constitution.
The objects of the association are:
i) To promote and encourage community groups to adopt 802.11b wireless technology as a form of communication.

ii) To assist these groups to communicate with each other, utilising the Air-Stream infrastructure.

The committee has the overall responsibility for the management of Air-Stream’s affairs, and members can face personal liability should things go wrong. That is why it is important for them to meet regularly and make sure that the correct information comes to meetings so that all committee members can make informed decisions.

To summarise then, being on a committee involves:

  • Having a shared sense of purpose (following aims & objectives)
  • Providing direction and leadership on behalf of the members
  • The ongoing development and review of a mission and policies to further the aims of the association
  • Taking collective responsibility
  • Dealing with compliance issues
  • Being accountable to members of the Association, government authorities i.e. ACMA and the wider community.

All committees need people with a mixture of skills to be able to meet their responsibilities.

What makes a good committee?

Many of us know of examples of committees that don't work. These are committees where meetings drag on and no actions are agreed, committee members do not take part in discussion or are discouraged from doing so, personal differences make it difficult to focus on the business at hand and so on. To work well, committees rely on the following:

  • Members who understand their responsibilities and role
  • Having the right mixture of skills, abilities and experience around the table
  • Commitment to the role and the aims and objectives of Air-Stream Wireless
  • Having a sense of purpose which translates into leadership
  • An understanding of the boundaries between overall direction and day-to-day management

However, as the organisation develops and new people become involved, committees sometimes forget to take a step back every now and again and check whether or not they are meeting the requirements listed above.

What makes a good committee member?

Now that we've covered what is required from the whole committee, it's time to think about what is needed from individual committee members. A good committee member:

  • Always acts in the interest of the membership as a whole
  • Commits to preparing for and attending meetings
  • Has a good understanding of Air-Stream Wireless, what it does and how it does it
  • Is not afraid to ask questions
  • Agrees to stick to the majority decision
  • Supports fellow committee members
  • Acts as an advocate for the Air-Stream Wireless
  • Has read and understands the rules in the constitution

Most of the things covered in the above list may seem very obvious, but many committees find that if they honestly assess themselves against this list then there are usually some areas for improvement. For example, if you are a committee member, have a look at the statements below.

Which one is closest to where you are?:

I always arrive on time for meetings, having read all the papers and considered any questions I want to raise. I also make sure that any action points assigned to me at the last meeting have been progressed.

I usually rush in for the meeting just as it's about to start. I print off the papers but don't always have time to read them beforehand. I'm involved in a few committees or I have lots of work/family commitments and it can be difficult to keep up with the committee work

In all honesty, most committee members are likely to fall somewhere in between these two categories. This is another good reason for committees to stop what they are doing every now and then.

By doing this, they can identify any problem areas before they grow. Committee members sometimes need some support to help them stay involved, and it's usually much easier to provide this support than to have to recruit a new committee member.

Roles within a committee

As well as having general committee member positions, most committees also have Office Bearer positions which come with specific responsibilities. The most common Office Bearer positions are:

  • Chair
  • Treasurer
  • Secretary

Main duties of the Chair

The Chairperson of Air-Stream Wireless has three main elements remit as follows:

  • Assisting with the managerial direction of Air-Stream Wireless
  • Planning and running meetings
  • Acting as spokesperson/figurehead

Main duties of the Treasurer

The Treasurer also has three main areas of responsibility:

  • Keeping an overview of the finances of the organisation
  • Reporting into committee meetings
  • Making sure the organisation has the right financial policies and procedures in place

Good management of finances is vital to the smooth running of the organisation. However, it is important to remember that while the Treasurer has a specific role within the committee in relation to money matters, the overall responsibility for financial management lies with the whole committee. Therefore, a key part of the Treasurer's role involves reporting to the committee on finances and it is important that everyone around the table understands the financial information given.

Main duties of the Secretary

The Secretary's main responsibilities are:

  • Supporting the administration of the organisation
  • Facilitating and supporting committee meetings

Air-Stream Wireless constitution will give guidance as to who is eligible to stand for membership of the committee.