You all know the drill… The business meeting agenda includes dedicated space for committees to report their activities. But the meeting drags on forever because some of the committees don’t have any items to present for action. This post offers a solution—a way to streamline the presenting of committee reports so that your meeting is more efficient.
First, let’s talk about drafting a committee report.
What should be included? A committee report should include only what has been agreed to by a majority vote at a properly called meeting of the committee. If the report is an annual report, or a report given at certain set intervals throughout the year, it should be submitted in accordance with the requirements of the group’s bylaws and should summarize important work done by the board or committee during the period covered by the report.
Any committee recommendations can be sprinkled throughout the report but should also be listed again at the end of the report so that they are easy to find. Recommendations should be worded as motions or resolutions so that they can be presented to the larger group in a way that’s precise and complete. The committee is best suited to draft these motions since it is the group that researched and discussed those topics.
If background is needed for a recommendation, here’s a simple format:
- Describe how the committee went about its work.
- Describe the facts that it learned or the information that it obtained.
- List the conclusions arrived at from the facts or information.
- List the resolutions the group is recommending.
Who should give the report? In a meeting, a report of a committee should be given by either the Chair or a committee member who has been designated as the reporting member.
How does the presentation of a report work?
No separate motion or action is needed to receive the report. Once the group has heard the report or seen it in official meeting materials, it is considered “received.”
If there are recommendations at the conclusion of the report, the reporting member should make a motion that each recommendation be adopted, presenting them one at a time. No second is required for these motions.
Sometimes a larger group will want to adopt an entire committee report. Typically, this action is reserved for situations when an organization wants to publish the report on behalf of the entire organization. If a group votes to do this, they are taking a vote to endorse every word of the report—including all underlying facts, reasoning, and conclusions. In this case, someone other than the reporting member should make the motion, and that motion does need a second.
Second, here’s how to streamline presentation of committee reports to save time.
Step 1: Ask each committee to submit an official written report and a completed Committee Activities Form at least one day prior to the printing of the agenda and meeting materials.
The Committee Activities Form is a one-page summary including the committee name, a list of the committee members, a summary of the committee’s activities since the last meeting of the entire group, and a list of action items for the larger group to consider.
Step 2: Review the reports and forms and give dedicated space on the agenda only to committees that have action items to present to the larger group.
Step 3: Print all reports for distribution at the meeting or load them on an internal website so that members can read them on their own time.
The advantage: The form allows the Chair to quickly determine whether a committee needs time on the agenda to report. At the meeting, committees included on the agenda can simply rise and present the action items they’ve listed, leaving the rest of the report to be read later at members’ leisure.
The disadvantage: Some worry that if the reports aren’t all presented verbally, no one will read them.
So, understanding this process, as well as the advantage and disadvantage of handling reports differently, here are some takeaways to guide your thinking about committees. Reports of committee activity, even without action items to present for a group decision, are still important. And there will always be work to be done to encourage and entice members to read written reports. So, if you’re part of an organization where a significant number of members are decidedly unengaged, think about how to incentivize them to read written committee reports that they receive. Perhaps change the format, timing, or vehicle by which reports are distributed.
Increasing members’ intake of information about what each arm of tehe organization is doing will likely have a positive impact on the commitment of members. They’ll learn for the first time about initiatives that excite them or individuals doing important work through committees, and it will increase their desire to be more involved.
Also, good, hard committee work shouldn’t be diminished. Active committees contribute value to any well-functioning organization. So, sometimes active committees need a spot on the agenda, even without any action items, especially when they have vital information to communicate.
But, consider adjusting the habit of allowing all committees time to report. Think about the effect reports have on the length of meetings. Be respectful of the valuable time that your dedicated members spend listening to reports that have less significance. And see if you can find any way to make this part of your meetings more efficient.