Small groups that report to a Board of Directors are what allow many nonprofit groups, industry organizations and regulatory groups or agencies to run. Most often, these groups, more commonly referred to as standing committees, are a starting point for new ideas and programs. Just like with most groups within an organization, a committee has an organizational structure that defines lines of authority and communication. The organizational structure for a committee typically is a vertical hierarchy.
The Top Layer
Although the organizational structure of a standing committee typically is no more than three layers deep, it is a vertical structure with defined lines of authority. Most often, a committee’s purpose determines who occupies the top hierarchical position. For example, the board’s treasurer might run a fund-raising or finance committee and the secretary might run a publications committee. Regardless, there typically is only one person at the top.
Officers occupy the middle layer of the hierarchy. Members in this layer report directly to the committee’s chairperson, and both receive communications from and share communications with members-at-large in the lower level. Officers typically assume responsibilities such as recording and reading meeting minutes, giving presentations or running sub-committees.
Members-at-large make up the bottom layer in the organizational hierarchy. They typically don’t have specific, assigned duties, but instead take directions from officers and often perform “leg-work” tasks such as making phone calls or gathering information. Some work together in sub-committees to complete specific portions of a larger or complex task. Members-at-large generally have the same voting rights as the officers and committee chairperson.