The Snidely Cancer Foundation of Metro has a staff of 45 people, more than 200 volunteers and has annual fundraising revenues of more than $37 million, but managers and board members say that they can’t seem to get anything done at their more than 227.5 existing standing and special committees.
The Foundation has a finance committee, a marketing committee, a fundraising committee and an annual fund committee. But it also has a committee for its website, staff relations, human resources, social media, donors whose last name starts with the letter “C”, environmental sustainability, capital purchases of appliances for the staff lunch room, community relations, Elvis impersonators, publications, staff parties and board retreats. Some of the more esoteric committees include one on the musical contribution of Burt Bacharach and another on the role of clowns in planned giving. Altogether, staff, board members and volunteers spend three million hours each year in committee meetings.
“We realized we have some sort of process issue here. We have lots of committees in place, most of whom do outstanding work. But we never seem to be able to get things done. It’s a mystery,” says board chair Dibble Brewer.
The issue came to a head when a board meeting had to be extended from three hours to three days to accommodate all the annual reports from the various board, staff, volunteer and community committees. One board member had to be hospitalized for dehydration after the boardroom’s water pitchers ran out the first day.
After a short discussion, the board agreed with a staff suggestion to strike a new committee to investigate why all the other committees don’t work.
“We knew what the problem was, but we couldn’t think of an answer until our CEO said we should form another committee to deal with it,” said Brewer. “It was brilliant.”
The new committee’s mandate is to poll each of the other committees and search for solutions to the Foundation’s process issue. Made up of 67 staff, board members and volunteers, the committee is made up of seven sub-committees that will deal with specific issues, such as recruitment, process, finance, human resources and what the main committee will have for lunches when it has to meet at noon. Its mandate calls for the new committee to report back to the board in seven months.
“I think we really have this problem licked this time,” said Brewer. “Our days of being stuck in committee are over.”