Thursday, October 23, 2014

Family Reunion Friday - The Committee

Who's on your family reunion's committee?  Who should be on your family reunion's committee?  How long should they be on the committee?  Should they be elected?  When should you hold elections?  Are all family groups being represented?

Have you ever known a family reunion to be run by one person or a very small group of people year after year?  And year after year that group gets smaller and smaller and new blood never seems to find its way in which usually means new ideas usually don't find their way in.  This is a one way ticket to a terminal end to your reunion.

That's not to say that those people that take on so much shouldn't be recognized.  They absolutely should and they do so much, however the best intentions can turn sour quickly.  People tend to like the way they do things and if you make a suggestion it can be taken as criticism quickly depending on that person's personality.  People often feel that they are "stuck" in the position of coordinating the reunion and can quickly become jaded.  "How dare you make a suggestion when I'm the one doing all the work!?!?!"

Here's a great question for those people..."WHY are you doing all the work?"  Many would say that it's because no one else volunteers.  Time for some hard words.  Some people won't volunteer to do it because of how hard this person/group of people makes it seem.  They drum up the drama as to their family reunion martyrdom and how much time they've given and how unappreciated they are.  Others look at it and think, "Well, I just don't have time for all that."  The reality is that with a properly elected committee it really doesn't take that much to coordinate a reunion...or it shouldn't.  Let me explain...

I served as a PTO president for one year.  I then served as a PTA president for two years.  I have been an adult leader in Cub Scouts for five years.  What do these positions bring to this discussion?  In each one of those groups finding people to take part in running the groups is extremely difficult.  It shouldn't be.  They value and use the groups so why do they hesitate to take part in running them?  Because they are under the false impression that it takes up too much of their time.  It shouldn't.  Sure there are leaders that are always looking to do more and spend a lot of time working to improve these groups, but the truth is that if there are enough people filling the leadership and committee positions then the work isn't that intensive.  Many hands make light work.  It's true.

Poor leadership can stifle a group.  A "president" of a committee doesn't actually do much, but you'll see some of them try to do everything.  This is deadly to a group because it undervalues the other members of the board.  No one likes a micro-manager and there's a very good reason why.  You have volunteers that work hard to make something a success and someone comes along and tries to do it for them.  That volunteer won't consider that being helpful.  That member might not come back.  A president guides the board and diffuses conflict.  A president is NOT a voting member except in the case of a tie vote.  A president can politely remind other committee leaders about upcoming deadlines and check up on work being done between meetings.  With a well-run family reunion committee the president should be quite bored.

The vice-president should be even more bored.  S/he has very little to do except when the president cannot attend meetings.  Then the VP takes the president's place.

The secretary takes notes at the meetings the committee holds, types them up and sends them to the board for corrections.  Many PTO/PTAs vote on approving the minutes at the following meeting which is fine, but the minutes need to be sent out to everyone as soon as the board suggests any corrections.  This would usually take place prior to the next meeting.  You don't ever want to withhold information from the families in your family reunion.  Individuals may not be on the committee, but that doesn't mean they don't want to know what's being planned.  Minutes can be distributed on a reunion website, blog or email.  You'd probably be surprised at the interest generated just by sending out the minutes.  You might get useful insight from a family member or even a volunteer!

The treasurer handles the money.  S/he works the deposits and signs the checks (although you should have 2 signers minimum on the bank account and each check).  The treasurer prepares the budget with the input given by the committee.  This may sound like a lot, but let's think about it.  The treasurer isn't actually coming up with all the input for the budget.  You'd have a budget meeting and take input from those in attendance.  You'll vote on what should be put into the budget (trust me...not everything is budget-worthy).  You'll prioritize the items in the budget and decide what types of fundraising will be done and a goal for each fundraiser.  Your fundraising efforts determine what actually gets funded in the budget.  All this isn't done by the treasurer, but by the committee and those in attendance in the budget meeting.  The treasurer organizes it all into the budget and then checks will go out only for things that have been approved in the budget.

You can have plenty of other people on your family reunion committee.  A fundraising chair.  A public relations chair (think newspapers).  An entertainment chair.  Essentially think of something you want to do at the reunion and you can create a committee for it.  Committees spread the workload.  Don't worry about having too many committees.  Spread the responsibility.  Giving people small, accomplishable tasks will make them come back for more.  It will make them feel invested in the reunion.  They will start to take ownership of it and you will breathe much needed life back into a dying event.