Volunteer Senior Management Committees Part 3 of 3

Introduction and Disclaimer

This is a continuation on my article on Corporate Cultures. In this article I share some of my personal work experience. The experiences, observations and opinions of another person may be different from mine. Please be aware that there will be some strong views that will be expressed here. My views result from my personal circumstances and your circumstances may differ.

Recruitment and Selection of Committee Members

It may seems bizarre to human resource practitioners who are used to well organized recruitment strategies and processes to know that the recruitment and selection of volunteers to manage and control non profit and non for profit organizations is largely a laissez-faire affair (hit and miss gamble).

Candidates for such committees are from personal referrals and enquiries. Screening are usually superficial, probably because these are “volunteer help”. So you may find a young person, with few years of working experience heading a particular committee, say human resources committee. It could also with an accountant or a government (civil service) servant taking on this role.

With regards to committee organizational structures, there may be role titles, but most often no clearly defined and written role or job descriptions and pre-requisites.

There is no contract or agreement written and signed between the volunteers and the organization to take up these roles. As it is a voluntary role, there is no remuneration.

It is very common that voluntary role is a evening or week-end part-time role. Usually, the volunteer is absent during the day-time operations of the organization.

Example: Volunteer Management Committee in a Church Context

At one time, the Church rose to great heights because of both its founder; and the missionaries that drove social changes.

Today, being non-profit organization, churches also adopts the practice of using volunteers to help manage the running of the church as a cost saving measure. This is also the reason behind the mismanagement of the church.

When we stand back to look, we wonder first, why would the church allow people from the secular world to manage the organization; second, why would the church adopt the use of volunteers that have their agendas and who have constraints on their commitments.

There is no rigorous process of searching, assessing, bringing on board or managing these volunteers, other than the person be part of the congregation or christian denomination. This means that members of committee that oversee church’s functional departments may not have the appropriate expertise; and right character to perform the role.

Because of the familiarly with christian lingos, these secular members may conceal their true self and agenda behind this veil or smoke screen, making it hard to differentiate the good from the bad characters. All they need to do is to quote a passage from the bible; mentioned the name of Jesus; or God bless you.

Code of Conduct and Performance Management

Sometimes, these organization set up many shell committees for different functions. One example is the disciplinary committee supposedly to conduct disciplinary hearings on volunteers that defaulted. The purpose of setting up these committees to to fend off monitoring activities from Government authorities. If you are yet to know, these organizations received donations from the public and it is these committees that makes the decision on what to do with the donations. These donations include monies and lands.

If you see some broad policies or principles on how the organization should organize itself and how senior management volunteers should manage the organization, such as the Book of Discipline from the methodist church, I will like to point out that these policies are poorly adhere to.

Volunteers are not assess for their performance; neither are they supervised nor counselled for their bad behaviors.

Motivating and Punitive Factors

In general, volunteers that sits in management committees have no risk of losing their income source either because of performance or conduct issues.

Most, especially in the non for profits sector are unwilling to be held accountable for their opinions, decisions and actions. Some regards themselves as doing a favor rather a service for the organizations that they serve.

Role authority in a committee is inferred while accountability is never or poorly defined or hard to enforce (partly due to the lack of performance management).

The members usually have voting rights. As this is a high level committee, with authority to make management decisions, whatever the decisions the committee makes and implemented will deliver its fullest impact.

If they hold key roles in the management committees, they have a great opportunity to bring their self-interests, egos and personal bias into the organization.

As volunteers have the little restraints placed on them personally; they are prone to abuse their authorities for their personal grudges. For example, they may not like another volunteer but because they sit in the same committee, one may outwardly agrees with the other person’s ideas simply because the other person is given a higher authority. However, one would spread spread rumors; or other counterproductive actions as a form of espionage.

Committee members supports their committee chairman’s decision, even if the action is an unfair treatment of staff. This is herd mentality.

Condominium management committee The members are both condominuium owners and residents.

 

I have written a detailed article on this type of committee. Please refer to it if you want to know more.

Volunteers that represent their firms in a trade related organization. The firm pays for the membership. The volunteer represent their employers. Their job is to promote their business to other members; have a say (voice) in matters or members’ policies or agreements; and trade association activities, including trade fairs.

 

Members are motivated when they are credited for ideas and they are able to brag them to their employers.

Volunteers that join a private alumini club management committee

 

This model could apply to clubs based on nationalities; such British Club, American Club.

 

 

The members are paying club members. Membership is open to degree holders but voting rights are reserved only for graduates of specified universities.

 

Club members pays a one time joining fees and an annual subscription. They also need to pay when they use the facilities of the club, for example restaurants, function halls.

 

Members that identify themselves as belonging to a fraternity.

 

Members are motivated by being the “paymasters” to the staff and regard the membership as their personal privilege.

Volunteers that join a country club management committee

 

This model could be applied to other sports club such as cricket, soccer.

Memberships is open to the public. Club members pays a one time joining fees and an annual subscription. They also need to pay when they use the facilities of the club, for example restaurants, bowling alleys, golf course, billard rooms, karaoke, bars.

 

Members that identify themselves with the exclusivity of the club.

 

Members are motivated by being the “paymasters” to the staff and regard the membership as their personal privilege.

Volunteers that join a church-related organization management committee The members are from the same religion and religious denominations; with the church congregation but not necessary from same subsidiary church.

 

Members that identify themselves with their religion.

 

Motivations are more personal. Members may joined because they are reluctantly drawn into it. Some join because of business opportunities to participate in contract tenders or it may enhance the individual’s ability to obtain a paid directorship with another organization. Still some join because the role title boost their inflated egos.

 

Negative Aspects of Volunteer Senior Management Committee Model

Lack of professionalism or required competencies There is no professional management on the acquisition of committee members. One reason is they are not paid for the role. Another is the nature of the source of volunteers.
Lack of accountability Management committees often pride themselves that they keep minutes of meeting as a record of the meeting on going.

 

However, when the draft minutes of meeting are circulated for verification of contents, they are in a position to give instructions for contents to be removed, amended or reworded.

 

If they are attentive, they would bar both video and audio recordings of meetings.

Confusion of who is legally liable for the organization’s operations This is a risk likely to arise in religious organization where the religious head thinks that he is shield from legal liability because he subjectivate himself to committee decision making.
Use organization as personal learning opportunity Sometimes, committee chairman or members are eager to try out ideas using the organization as a test bed. It is after all the organization that will absorb the costs.
  Such committees attract ego-centric people to join.Some retirees that had been in senior positions in their previous working life tends to suffer from a sense of listlessness and strong desire to feel a sense of autocratic power.

 

Ego and face saving matters more than doing whhat is right for the organization.

 

There appears to be a greater percentage of people with BPO or NPOs than normal

Lack of touch with the ground the ground operations. Distant from daily operations and staff There is a failure to understand and appreciate operational challenges and problems. This is probably due to member’s unwillingness to do so because it is a volunteer role and the member may be an businessman or be working at a full time job for somebody else.

 

An exxample where the member is distant from staff is the situation where the Chairman of the Human Resource Committee do not know any of the staff.

Skewed focus on financial numbers. Lack of attention to details in decision or project implementation. All committee decision are based on reports and financial numbers. Because volunteers have little time, there is little motivation to go on the ground and pay attention to details even if committee decisions involves tens, hundreds, thousands of thousand dollars.
Personal egos Nothing can boost one’s ego than possessing the capacity and freedom to exercise power.

 

Members has very little restraints on their personal conduct.

Wilful Spendings Sometimes decision to spend lavish amounts is to boost the committee member’s ego.
Staff is of the least concern; belittling staff; blame shifting to staff First, the bugetary constraints is greater relative to for profits organization. Second, the inclination to spend the organization wilfully endangers the organization’s financial resources.

 

Members, especially in organizations where they are paid members, see the organizations as theirs. They rather spend on what is theirs than on what in theire eyes are their servants, the staff. When members quarrel between themselves, between themselves and the senior manager, they may shift the blame to a staff and penalize the staff. All these will also happen in a religious organization; where one expects to hold the highest moral ethics.

 

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