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When Not to Form a Committee

Search America By Harvey Weiner & Mark Weiner
Partners of
Search America® 


The purpose of a committee is to promote discussion of issues facing the club. Committees can serve a valuable purpose or they can be perceived as busy-work with no real purpose other than to occupy the time of participants or to delay the board having to face a difficult or unpleasant issue.

Responsible directors who get it form few committees. Exceptions would, of course, be the customary standing committees for finance, membership, social, rules, green, golf, tennis and house. The more enlightened clubs may also have member communications, capital improvement, strategic planning and best practices committees. Some clubs with more amenities may also have committees dedicated to fitness/spa, swim, entertainment, decorating, etc. The closer a club is managed under the Chief Operating Officer concept and governed with minimal micromanaging, the fewer committees.

Ideally, the committee dynamic, and the possible need for associated research, can be a valuable training arena for future club leadership. The deliberative process can help identify emerging leaders, sensitize those individuals to some of the issues facing their club, and build constituencies based on relationships developed while serving together on a committee.

Politics naturally plays an important role in promoting a particular agenda. A valid reason, therefore, to form a committee is when the support and advocacy of a particular mix of influential members may be helpful in “selling” an otherwise difficult message. The idea that percolates up from such a credible group is more likely to be accepted by the club’s members.

Too often a board will form a committee to simply defer action on a sensitive or controversial topic or to avoid having to deal with an issue during their term. Two such issues may be a proposed change in management or anything which may require a membership assessment.

Responsible private club leaders respect the extent of their authority. The club’s board of directors typically has the power, by majority vote, to authorize decisions, principally those involving funding, to the limits specified in the club’s bylaws. An exception, of course, would be the advisory “board” of a proprietary or developer-owner club.

A committee’s authority, and that of its members, is clearly defined and limited by that which has been delegated to it by the board of directors. In most cases the committee, its chairperson and its members have no actual authority other than to report back to the board with a recommendation for board action. Effectively managing the club’s governance process and efficiently running the business of the club on a day-to-day basis require observance of these guidelines.

Don’t form a committee:

  • When management can implement decisions within its present authority
  • When a task is within the ability of a director or already established group
  • For insignificant matters
  • When clearly defined and assigned responsibility is required
  • For situations requiring prompt performance
  • Of over ten people
  • Of all like-minded individuals, of the same age, or same affinity group
  • When a board decision’s already been made and management authorized to act
  • To deflect blame
  • To defer making a decision on a compelling issue

Harvey and Mark Weiner, partners in the firm Search America®, Board Consultants for Club Management Search & Selection, are popular speakers and frequent contributors to Club Industry publications. They may be reached at 800.977.1784, or at [email protected]  © Search America