Although volunteering on your club committee takes a little time, there is much to gain and helps with securing the club’s future. It is the absolute best way to learn about your club, get to know other members and to get maximum value from your membership.
One of the key benefits of belonging to your club committee is having a say in how your club is run. There are a myriad of things that happen to keep a club running and these aren’t always communicated to the wider membership. It is a chance to gain knowledge and learn new skills, for example: public speaking, planning, financial management, leadership and mentoring. Additionally, it puts you in a prime seat for ensuring your club schedules the activities that interest you the most. There is also that warm inner glow that comes from contributing to an organisation you support and for people about which you care.
Some clubs have longstanding club officers; while for other clubs, filling positions can be challenging. There are some things a club can do to guarantee a smooth transition during the handover of roles. Often, a general call for volunteers is a good place to start, followed by one-on-one contact with potential committee members. Don’t be shy approaching people, and start early. Ideally, a committee would include people who reflect the breadth of club membership and bring a range of skills, so don’t discount newer members, younger members or your senior members. Committees work for the benefit of current members, but are also guardians of the clubs’ future. As a result, they need people who can keep an eye on societal, environmental and economic trends and know how to stay relevant to their community.
As part of the club committee, you have a say in the type of trips your club runs; Photo credit: Diane Dowle, Waimea Tramping Club
Hutt Valley Tramping Club has found that welcoming new members to the club and making them feel valued is a good step toward recruiting them to a committee. They encourage some newer members to take on modest roles as they get to know the club and sometimes these members step up to more demanding positions. Clubs can also encourage prospective committee members to come to meetings before being appointed so they can understand how things are run.
Make each job on the committee as easy as possible. For the treasurer role, this could be investing in accounting software or for the membership secretary role, it could be handing over a tidy database. Share the workload amongst committee members and don’t forget that officer-bearers are almost always volunteers and the expectations of them need to reflect that.
Ensure meetings are run efficiently – the real purpose of belonging to an outdoors club is recreation not administration. Auckland Tramping Club changed from 11 meetings a year to just six, with email correspondence or phone calls between meetings for anything important. At these meetings, their decisions are made and administrative matters are handled quickly and simply. It is also important for clubs to ensure meetings are safe places where views can be shared and committee members feel encouraged to participate.
Once elected, ensure your committee is well supported. Don’t put too much responsibility on your new committee members, but find them a role so they feel valuable and can contribute straight away. Mentoring is a great way for new officers to learn their roles. At Waikato Tramping Club, the incumbent trains the newbie in their new responsibilities. Role descriptions are also useful.
Members are more likely to see value in being on their committee if they see what the committee does. While not everything needs to be shared, committees should update members on decisions and significant news, and to seek their members’ feedback. It’s also useful for committee members to be visible in club life.
Photo credit: Liz Henderson, Nelson Tramping Club
For clubs in areas with a highly transient population, it may fall to only a few members to hold the committee together. One way this can work is if roles are intermittently swapped between members. Even clubs in large urban centres can find that one stint of service on their committee is not enough to keep the club running over time.
It’s not the end of the world if your club doesn’t fill a role straight away. Not that long ago, Belgium was run perfectly fine by its bureaucracy without a leader for close to two years. There are several options clubs can take if a role isn’t filled. A large role could be shared by two people, for example as co-presidents, or the duties of an unfilled role, such as secretary, could be shared amongst other committee members. An unfilled position may also allow someone who viewed the formalised position with trepidation to have a go in an acting capacity.
Don’t forget to thank your committee. Gratitude is really important and could include small over-and-above gestures as well as kind words. Celebrating small successes and your wins together is a great way for any team to feel appreciated and for their work to feel meaningful.
On that note, I’m grateful to the clubs and individuals who have contributed to this article – thank you all.
Together, we can climb any mountain – creating a vibrant, effective and committed club committee.
This article has been republished from the August 2023 edition of ‘Backcountry,’ the quarterly bulletin of Federated Mountain Clubs. To subscribe to the print version, visit www.fmc.org.nz/aboutbackcountry.