Types of Board Committees

a board committee during a board meeting

The work of a board of directors is accomplished through an array of smaller groups within its sphere. 

Boards commonly leverage standing, ad hoc, advisory, steering, and executive committees to ensure optimal efficiency.

Every board of directors needs to be diligent about assessing their committee structure. For instance, in a leaner organization, limiting the number of committees will keep operations more straightforward and streamlined. Whereas, as companies blossom, their business model becomes more multi-layered. As such, an abundance of committees might be necessary to stay on track. 

Standing Committee

Some would call standing committees the glue that holds a board of directors together. 

After all, this specific sector of a board bears the brunt of the workload. The standing committee holds the most significant influence over the big-picture direction of an organization’s interests, programs, projects, and overall mission.

It’s common practice for the standing committee to be written in the organization’s bylaws or the board operations and policy manual.

Lastly, standing committees are tasked with scrutinizing high-priority issues, then putting forth successful solutions.

Ad Hoc or Task Force Committee

There are times when boards of directors face a specific challenge or need, that requires extra attention. In these cases, the board will form a temporary ad hoc task force to tackle the issue. 

These committees’ entire purpose is to solve one problem. So, they’ll only exist for as long as is needed. Much of the time, ad hoc task force committees are dissolved within a year. 

Such groups will often work on special events-based projects, or they’ll analyze a proposed merger, for example. 

Advisory Committee

During circumstances when boards require an outside perspective, they’ll consult with their advisory committee. 

Since these groups lack any governance and are relied upon more for their expert opinion, it’s wise to build them with former board members. Also, it’s worth considering prospective board members and subject-specific experts for the role.

It’s worth noting that the advisory committee isn’t mutually exclusive to non-board members, but that’s how they’re usually constructed.

Steering Committee

If an initiative falls within the purview of a board of directors, the steering committee is the expert group that guides the project from beginning to end. 

Generally, steering committees are an amalgamation of board officers, senior stakeholders, subject experts, executives, client reps, and department employees. 

The common practice is for these groups to collectively interact and collaborate to control, prioritize, and define the scope of initiatives. They also act as a guiding force for project managers when they run into problems. 

Executive Committee

Administering rules and managing the operations of a board of directors falls into the lap of its executive committee.  

Exactly how much authority an executive committee possesses comes down to the language used in bylaws and varies from organization to organization. Regularly, these collectives consist of the president, vice-president, treasurer, and secretary of the board. However, membership can also be open to other sub-committee chairs.

A board of directors might not require all of these committees but will benefit tremendously from being aware of how these groups can be leveraged.