This can definitely be a challenge. My advice; start your communication with your potential and confirmed committee members early. I typically start 10-12 months in advance. This will allow most individuals ample time to make room in their schedules for the planning process and the event itself.
It is best to have committee members from a variety of backgrounds. Yes, the “well-known” committee members have a broad reach in the community with several connections, but they can also be committed to several projects at one time. Do not be afraid to enlist young professionals and others who may not be as connected; these individuals are driven to succeed, what to get their name out in the community and often are not committed to several projects at one time…meaning they can dedicate more time to your event!
Define clear expectations and goals during the recruitment process. If attending meetings is vital to the success of the process, make sure to state this in the expectations. At times, I have listed that 50-60% of the monthly meetings must be attended to receive recognition on event materials.
Make it clear if they will be expected to solicit for monetary or in-kind donations. Will they be required to sell event tickets? If so, will there be a minimum for each individual to sell?
Many people are not comfortable asking others for money or “stuff” however; they may still be a very valuable committee member. Assign them to a task that fits their strengths; decorations, volunteer recruitment, etc… Do not assign a committee member to a task they are not comfortable with, you are setting your committee up for failure and it will only lead to last minute work on your part and could affect the outcome of donations. If you can assign committee members to tasks they enjoy, they are more likely to stay on schedule and be successful.
Stay connected throughout the planning period, even during those periods of time with less planning action. Meeting with the committee on a regular basis; I typically hold monthly meetings leading up to the event. However, 6-8 weeks prior to an event the meetings will be held every 2 weeks. Create an agenda for each meeting; this will help ensure the committee stays on task. Make sure when the meeting is complete that each individual has a clear understanding of their next steps. Send a meeting follow-up or minutes within 24 hours of the meeting as a reminder of what was discussed and everyone’s required follow-up. In those notes highlight the deadlines that were set at the meeting and of course, do not forget to provide the date, time and location of the next meeting. I typically like to send our meeting reminders 1 week and 24 hours prior.
Hold committee members accountable for the responsibilities they selected. Do not down play the importance of their tasks. Unfortunately, those tasks that the committee fails to complete are ultimately your job. Do not wait too long to step in to ensure the task is completed on time and correctly.
I believe a great committee with an event better leader will make an event successful. Finding the right members is just as important as selecting the right date, venue and auction items.