Governance of Committees

A board can use committees, which are sometimes called subcommittees (particularly where the main board is called a committee), to either deal with one-off issues and needs or to deal with an ongoing need.

In the case of a need or issue that arises as a one-off, then a committee or subcommittee can be formed on an ad hoc basis and asked to address the specific need.

However, it is recognised that some areas such as finance or human resources are ongoing needs and it may be more appropriate to form a standing committee or subcommittee to address any issues that arise in those areas.

The important thing to remember when considering committees is that to be able to form committees or subcommittees, your organisation must have this provision outlined in your governing document. 

Ideally your governing document will not dictate which committees you have because this would be a rigid committment and you may find that a committee that you thought was useful and appropriate 10 years ago is no longer needed.

Instead the governing document should allow you to form committees as appropriate to the needs of the organisation. 

If this is the case it is important that the committees are governed appropriately so that each committee has terms of reference that outline:

  • purpose of the committee
  • how and why the committee was formed
  • how are members of the committee selected
  • how the committee works
  • how the committee recommends initiatives to the board
  • how frequently the need for the committee is reviewed
  • how often the committee meets.

Examples of committee terms of reference (TOR) can be downloaded below.

Benefits of Committees

The benefit of having committees is that they can meet between board meetings and progress work in certain areas before reporting back to the main board.

A further benefit of using committees is that you can pull in expertise from outside the board by appointing people to committees who don't hold a board position.

In this situation it is usual that a board member takes responsibility for the portfolio of area and will chair the committee on behalf of the board but external members will be present on the committee. This may allow the board to benefit from expertise outside of the skillset of the immediate board members. 

Further to this, using external members for committees is a good training ground and succession plan for potential new board members – they will get a taste for the organisation and the organisation will get a taste for the individual before having to decide whether they should be a full board members or not.

Committees to consider

Because it is a decision for each organisation to regulate the use and work of subcommittees and committees there is no one list of all the committees you should have.

Below is a list of the most common committees and subcommittees in sport and recreation organisations which may be worth considering if you do not already have them:

  • Strategic planning committee: responsible for updating and creation of the strategic plan. This committee will have a 3–5 years perspective and will be responsible for updating the board on the work related to the formation of a strategic plan.
  • Fundraising committee: responsible for identifying and working with potential donors, may also include work on identifying sponsorship and other commercial income streams.
  • Finance committee: in small organisation this may be the job of the treasurer. However, in a larger organisation with a more diverse and complicated economic landscape it may be advisable to have a finance committee.
  • Hiring committee: overseeing the process of advertising for and hiring new employees.
  • Membership committee: responsible for recruiting new members for the organisation and in some cases new board members.
  • Sport development committee: responsible for setting the strategy for development of the sport to meet targets.  

Examples of committee TOR can be downloaded below.

Charter governance documents form for a governance committee.
Example: British Triathlon technical committee terms of reference.
Example: Baseball Softball UK, governance, diversity and safeguarding committee terms of reference.
Example: Sport and Recreation Alliance finance committee terms of reference.
Example: Sport and Recreation Alliance remuneration and staffing panel terms of reference.

To receive the Sport and Recreation Alliance’s free daily sports news summary, a round-up of the day’s most interesting and informative news articles on sport and recreation, including links to original sources, email