Attracting and keeping positive committee members
The Spiers Centre is a not for profit charitable organisation that provides a variety of programs to support predominantly low income families and individuals of all ages and cultures in the northern suburbs of Perth. Five years ago, it was called Granny Spiers Community House and could not attract new members to its board. CEO Rhonda Adamsam explains how she changed the culture.
Without pre-empting your upcoming webinar; what are your top three tips for attracting and keeping positive committee members?
- Know your organisation and its needs, so that at any time or place you can encourage prospective members to consider joining;
- Ensure your board has an induction which makes him/her aware of their responsibilities, but which also shows him/her that being a board member is enjoyable and rewarding;
- Always be aware of what skills your current board is lacking so that you can be on the lookout for someone with those skills.
The stated purpose of the Spiers Centre is ‘to relieve the poverty, misfortune and distress of individuals and families in the northern suburbs of Perth.’ Why is it so important to identify and articulate your purpose as an organisation?
Your Board, staff, volunteers and members all need to be on the same page when it comes to knowing why your organisation exists and what sort of work you do, and articulating your purpose as an organisation through a Strategic Plan brings it all together and puts it in focus. It is also very important that a consistent image is portrayed to the community, especially if you are seeking financial support or sponsorship.
You took on the role as coordinator at Granny Spiers Community House in 2005. How has the organisation changed since that time?
When I started in 2005, Granny Spiers Community House was a small organisation, unsure of its future funding, and struggling to come to terms with changes to its role in the community. With a small Management Committee that couldn’t get new members and a small group of staff and volunteers who were energetic and full of enthusiasm, but who were unable to drive the organisation forward, I was asked to take on the role of coordinator and to consider ways in which everyone could focus their energy on how to develop and move forward.
Undertaking a strategic plan seemed the answer to me, and since we did this, we have grown our finances, staff and volunteer numbers to the point where we are now looking at building extensions to accommodate us all.
What’s in a name? Why was it important to change yours?
Your name needs to be accessible, friendly and flexible. Whilst we thought our name, Granny Spiers Community House, was friendly, it wasn’t very accessible (it was quite a mouthful), nor was it flexible. Many people made assumptions about what we did because of that name, (no we are not a child care centre or a centre for the elderly). So we made the decision to change our name to match our newly defined vision and mission. It was a huge consultative process—but it really worked for us.
What are the common mistakes you see community organisations making in relation to thinking strategically?
- Thinking that you have to seek board members from your current membership
- Thinking that your current membership has all the skills that will be needed.
- Mixing up the roles of bus driver and navigator (you will have to listen to my webinar to learn about that oneJ).
Rhonda has over 20 years experience within the community development sector including 10 years experience managing community organisations. Rhonda’s experience is diverse having worked in community and government organisations, as a consultant to local government, as a Sessional Lecturer at Edith Cowan University, and has been involved in an international research team investigating domestic violence. Rhonda is committed to helping people improve their circumstances and believes that working with the community is the best place to start.
For more information, check out Rhonda’s webinar.