What is a Governance Committee?

What is a Governance Committee?

Your Governance Committee is essential to support the health and function of your board. Just like a personal trainer, if you don’t have someone pushing you to keep exercising those muscles, even high-functioning boards can start to slip. 

The Governance Committee is one of the five core committees that every charter school board should have.

It’s commissioned by and responsible to the board of trustees to assume the primary responsibility for matters pertaining to board member recruitment, nominations, orientation, training, and evaluation, in accordance with the bylaws of the organization and established policies and practices approved by the board of trustees.

Key Responsibilities of a Governance Committee

The Governance Committee’s primary responsibilities are to:

Sample Governance Committee Goals and Tasks

As with any committee, your Governance Committee’s work should be organized around goals and tasks.

One of your committee’s primary goals might be:

Create a Board Policies Manual.

To ensure you meet that goal, you might assign specific committee members the following tasks:

  1. Research required policies for charter school boards in our state
  2. Cross-reference with our authorizer
  3. Investigate sample policies to bring us into compliance
  4. Committee makes recommendations to the whole board for adoption

Who should serve on your Governance Committee

The ideal members of this committee are board members who have previous governance experience.

Ideally, you’ll have a few board members or non-board committee members with experience on a school board. Or have leadership experience in charter, private, or public school settings.

Attorneys or people who understand governance structures and laws are also a great fit.

Or, someone who has great networking and recruiting experience and can be helpful in the committee’s recruiting and orientation responsibilities.

People who’ve worked in leadership or organizational development can also be useful in the committee’s roles around recruiting and orientation, training, and process.

The right committee chair is also important.

Don’t leave this to your Board Chair. Ideally, your Board Chair will serve on this committee ex-officio. And someone else will chair the committee.

Having someone else serve as Governance Committee Chair means that there’s a check on the Board Chair. Someone else on the board can speak to the Board Chair from a position of authority as it relates to governance issues.

For example, maybe the Governance Committee discovers that full board meetings don’t feel productive. Board members are frustrated. The board is at risk not only of faltering engagement but actually of losing great people. Best case scenario: the Board Chair just needs tips on meeting facilitation. Worst case scenario: the Board Chair needs someone to have a frank conversation with them about possibly stepping down and making room for new leadership.

Best Practices for Making Your Governance Committee a Success

Prioritize Your Governance Committee

This committee should be one of the first established by your board. Tending to the health, education, and evolution of your board members is vital to having an effective board.  

Full Board Ownership for All Written Policies

Creating policy should be the purview of the entire board and each committee. All policies do not need to flow through the Governance Committee. The Governance Committee should focus only on policies related to the board process: job descriptions, attendance policies, bylaws, etc.

Operate Beyond the Nominating Functions

Some boards have a Governance Committee in name, but the committee only focuses on the nominating aspects. Prioritize sufficient time on evaluating the board annually, organizing board training, etc.

Success for your organization depends on a well-staffed Governance Committee to manage board member recruitment, nominations, evaluations, and all issues relating to bylaws.

Download the definitive guide to board committees.

Learn more about the Governance Committee. And all five committees that every board needs.

Our guide to board committees includes who to recruit to serve, what practices the highest-performing committees follow, and sample goals and job descriptions.

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