Kick off your committee’s success by starting with the membership

Diversify your committee’s membership for greater success with these suggestions.

Success of a committee often starts with the members who serve on the committee. One key factor to that success is making sure that a good cross representation of the community served is represented. When a committee or board holds an election to determine who will represent the greater organization, there are some items to consider. Groups should refrain from having more than one adult and one youth from any one immediate family on the board. When forming a board, you want to get the most diverse and best cross representation of the entire organization. Although family members may have different opinions, they most likely have similar values and beliefs and too many members from the same family will deter the cross representation.

This same thought process can be said for multiple members from one club or from one area of the county. The best practice would be to outline these parameters right in the bylaws under membership. However, if it is not in the bylaws, the nominating committee should consider following these same guidelines when placing names on the ballot. If multiple members from a larger club are put on the ballot, it is only natural they would receive more votes since they have a larger membership backing them and would take the majority of the positions. Keeping the number of individuals from the same club or family limited will prevent this from occurring.

When forming a committee, club or council, a strong set of bylaws is a great way to keep the group on target and focused on the mission. The first part of the bylaws should start out with Article I: Name, Article II: Purpose and Article III: Membership.

The membership section should clearly define who qualifies to be a member and how to become one. In addition, it should outline the rules of membership so members understand the expectations of the organization.

Placing such a rule in the bylaws could come under Rules of Membership as seen in the sample below, item D. It may also fall in the Election Procedures under the nominating committee rules as the example Section 5, B shows.

Sample of membership:

III. Membership

Section 4. Rules of the Membership

  1. All adult 4-H committee members are limited to two consecutive two-year terms. Members may then be re-elected after being off the committee for one year.
  2. No term limits for teen representatives.
  3. All adult 4-H committee members must have been a registered volunteer for at least two (2) years prior to being an elected member of the Committee.
  4. No more than one adult and one youth from the same immediate family may serve on the committee at the same time.

Section 5. Election Procedures

  1. Six (6) adult representatives and six (6) teen representatives shall be elected to the Committee annually in October. New members will begin their term at the regularly scheduled meeting in November of the year they are elected or re-elected.
  2. Representatives shall be selected by being placed on a ballot by a nominating committee. There shall be at least eight (8) adults, and eight (8) teens on the ballot each year in order for an election to take place. Ballots will be mailed to each registered 4-H volunteer (both youth and adult). No more than one adult and one youth from the same immediate family may serve on the committee at the same time. Therefore the nominating committee will take that in consideration when placing names on the ballot.

There are many different ways to incorporate such a rule into bylaws to ensure a good cross representation of the community. For more ideas or guidance, please contact the Michigan State University Extension Leadership and Civic Engagement team at

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