What is the Executive Committee’s Job…and What Isn’t?

Did you see this article by Kathy Cohen and Nanette R. Fridman that was distributed in e-Jewish Philanthropy and Mass Nonprofit News? The article, titled “Nonprofit Executive Committees: Striking the Right Balance” discusses the role of a properly constituted executive committee. 
The dual trends of 1) having board members scattered geographically and 2) having less frequent full board meetings has expanded the role of many executive committees in providing lay-leadership oversight and support to the camp staff. In our work with non-profit boards, we hear all too often that non-executive board members feel the executive committee is making all the decisions, leaving the board meeting as nothing more than a place for information exchange and an occasional rubber stamp. 
What the Executive Committee SHOULD Focus on…

Authors Cohen and Fridman point to the six areas where an executive committee can best be utilized:
  1. Going deep on a topic before asking the full board for their insight and participation
  2. Beta testing a new idea or process before sharing more widely
  3. Helping the board chair set the agenda and ensure key issues and perspectives are heard
  4. Taking on work that doesn’t have an obvious home on another board committee
  5. Working on emergent and sensitive issues between full board meetings
  6. As a training ground for coaching the leadership staff and building board leadership skills
Read the full article for further insight about these six areas.
…And What the Executive Committee Should NOT Do

The authors also warn of the areas where an executive committee can “get in trouble:”
  1. Pre-deciding board topics and decisions and impeding overall board engagement
  2. Creating a clique-like group that causes division within the board
  3. Taking on too much of the board’s work, which can leave the Executive Committee members burned out and underutilize the rest of the board’s wisdom and expertise when decisions are made
Involvement of the entire Board in a meaningful and engaging manner is critical to the success of your organization. Take a look at this article by Kathy Cohen and Nanette R. Fridman, and then take a closer look at your Executive Committee. You should include an assessment of the role of the Executive Committee into the roles and responsibilities exercise we wrote about in a prior blog on that subject. Assuring the proper role for your Board and your Executive Committee members will result in a positive impact on the camp and provide a fulfilling experience for each of them individually as well.

Written by Mark P. Gold. Mark is the Director of JCamp 180. His focus areas at JCamp 180 include developing new Matching Grant programs, promoting Jewish Camp financial literacy, overseeing PJ Goes to Camp (part of One Happy Camper), and providing new professional development opportunities for Camp Lay Leadership and staff. 

Who we are: JCamp 180 is a program of the Harold Grinspoon Foundation (HGF). Our goal is to significantly enhance the long-term effectiveness of nonprofit Jewish camps in North America. To meet this goal, we provide affiliated Jewish camps with consulting services, annual conferences, shared resources, professional development, and matching grant opportunities. Find more at