How to get new committee people

From U3A Conference

HOW do we deal with members‘ lack of enthusiasm for committee positions? How to train people to be confident to take on committee roles? These were two of the most discussed questions raised by Dubbo U3A President Colin Jones when he chaired two Q&A sessions at the annual conference. All delegates agreed that U3As are finding it harder to get people to stand for management committees. A representative of Sydney U3A, for example, said with 5,000 members they have trouble getting people to go on committee, as each of Sydney‘s seven regions have their own chairperson, secretary and treasurer. ?We persuade people to help as assistant secretary, etc so they then feel confident of moving into the position if necessary,? he said. Other suggestions included: TAP people on the shoulder – you can‘t wait for them to volunteer SOME otherwise willing members imagine the job of treasurer, secretary or whatever may be beyond them and
don‘t want to appear to fail or look stupid. The remedy is not to be too hard on them and give them lots of support.

?PRAISE newcomers‘ achievements so they will stand for re-election.

?ESTABLISH a ?shadow? for each committee member. You assume the shadow will take over the job if the incumbent retires or falls ill.

?EMPHASISE that every committee member is part of a team – a team that is not only willing to pitch in to help one another, but is pulling together for the benefit of the membership as a whole.

?ENSURE that everyone on the committee has a specific job, well described so they know exactly what they have to do and when. For example, Kiama U3A produces a manual on committee positions. They also combine the outgoing and incoming committee members at a special lunch.

?MAKE sure work is shared and delegated where necessary

?NEW members can be a fertile recruiting ground. Tell them the best way to get to know an organisation and meet people is through service.

?START looking for committee members at least three months before your AGM.

Delegates had varying views on whether or not people should hold a particular executive post for a fixed term with the idea of preventing any perception growing that the organisation was run as someone‘s fiefdom. Fixed terms of two or three years are fine but what happens if no-one new volunteers for that job at the AGM? Answer, according to some delegates, is simple – if your U3A‘s constitution allows it. Just declare a casual vacancy and re-appoint the previous office holder. One well-beloved U3A Treasurer has been working on the books, casually, for the past 15 years! A Goulburn-Mulwarree U3A delegate suggested changing your U3A‘s constitution so there was no set time for holding any position. ?Then you stand up each year and, if you‘re eligible, the members can make a decision,? she said. An allied discussion was on how to get more members to attend AGMs.

When Sydney U3A had trouble getting a quorum recently they had to re-schedule the AGM, informing all members, at a cost of between $4000 and $5000. Again, delegates had a host of suggestions based on their own U3A‘s experiences. For example: MAKE the AGM a feature of enrolment day for the next year. Advertise that class enrolments will be on a firstcome, first-served basis COMBINE the AGM with free morning/afternoon tea and/or a showcase of members‘ craft and other creative works. TUGGERAH Lakes U3A scheduled their Christmas lunch at the same time as the AGM and three-quarters of their members turned up. LAKE Macquarie turned their AGM into a celebration with a guest speaker so people were not afraid to attend.