Section 13: Working With Committees

This publication is a guide for councils to use in planning and orienting committees. Each committee should define its plan of work each year. Strong committee work leads to more efficient meetings, better decisions and greater involvement of extension council members. Committee work is one of the most important elements of good council management.

Value of committees

Committees broaden the participation of council members and provide opportunities to learn about the extension council. Committee activity provides interest for council members and continuity for training of new members in specific areas.

When to use committees

Committees can be used effectively when one or more of the following circumstances exist:

  1. A variety of information is needed to reach a decision.
  2. Informed volunteer workers can be effective in putting plans into action.
  3. Coordination in planning is needed.
  4. The council officers cannot and/or should not make the decision.
  5. Sufficient time is available to use a committee fully.

Other circumstances can be considered: How productive are extension council committees? Are many made up of the same people? Have projects failed for lack of proper study? Have programs been dropped for lack of needed resources? Is it difficult to get people to serve on committees?

Successful committees depend on careful selection, recruitment and orientation.

Selecting committees

When forming a committee, Step 1 is to consider who within and/or outside the council should be included. Make a list of skills, knowledge, viewpoints and other considerations that should be represented on the committee. Several important considerations are:

  • What groups are interested in the activity?
  • What or whom will be affected?
  • Which people have the knowledge or skills needed?
  • Which people have access to the resources to do the job?
  • Are there groups that might develop a greater sense of belonging or commitment to University of Missouri Extension if they worked on the committee?
  • Is representation needed from different points of view— e.g. civic and community groups, ethnic groups, age groups, economic levels?

After deciding on the skills and perspectives needed on the committee, Step 2 is to select the individuals to fill the roles. Consider:

  • People interested in the issue;
  • People who will communicate with others in the community;
  • People with a positive attitude and enthusiasm;
  • People who can work with others;
  • Continuity in committee membership; and
  • Personal interest or technical expertise.

Types of committees

Committees are either temporary or standing. Temporary committees work on a particular project, and then the committee is dissolved. Permanent or standing committees work on a project throughout a year or, in some cases, several years. Below are some of the committees in use in extension council operations.

Budget — Develops the county budget in partnership with the engagement specialists and presents the budget to the county commission.

Election and Nomination — Oversees the election process by reviewing election procedures, assessing civil rights compliance and inclusive excellence and determining occupations and geographic areas in the county needing representation. Also nominates and contacts candidates and officers for the council.

Program — Serves in an advisory capacity for developing programs relating to youth and family, business and community, health and safety, agriculture and the environment, and health and safety.

Personnel — Completes interviews, makes recommendations regarding hiring and placement of county and university faculty and staff.

Special Events — Plans and implements special events, including the annual meeting, town and country dinners, fall festivals, summer ice cream socials, etc.

Recognition — Nominates candidates for the annual farm family program; develops other recognition programs.

Endowment and Gifts — Plans and implements the county endowment and gifts program.

Public Relations/Marketing — Develops and implements a public relations plan.

Facilities — Analyzes existing facilities and their capacity to meet educational programming needs and plans for improvements in office facilities and equipment.

Committee size

The committee’s purpose generally determines committee size. In carrying out many council functions, small committees have advantages. The larger committee tends to be harder to coordinate and more unwieldy; to bog down in irrelevant issues; and to take too much of members’ time on subjects unrelated to the committee's particular focus.

There are, however, times when a large committee is required. On occasion, the total membership may serve as a committee in determining the program of work. There is no set rule, but basically, the smaller the committee the better and faster the action.


Having decided what skills and perspectives will be needed and having identified individuals who can fill those roles, the next step is recruitment. Individuals are successfully recruited by indicating to them, in specific terms, why they were selected and why their unique combination of knowledge, skills and interests are vital to the success of the group. Steps 1 and 2 should be the basis of your recruitment. If the request is sincere, it will be an offer they won't refuse.

An example: The elections committee used the following process in selecting nominees to the council.

Step 1: Kinds of people needed Step 2: Individuals Step 3: Recruitment
One skilled in fundraising Barry Smith, local college We need your skills in public relations campaign.
One who knows business training needs Julie Smart, Chamber of Commerce We need someone who is in touch with local businesses.
Service club representatives Rick Rhodes We need your enthusiasm.
Local government official Carol Sharp, city manager We need your knowledge and network with the city.
Realtor, who knows sites for the new office location Sally Bright We need your knowledge of the county
Farmer, who is interested in small-farm operations Tom Marlow We need your knowledge about small farming operations
Organization, coordination skills Wilma Brown We need your coordination skills

Recruitment should always include information about the time commitment. Tell people the number of meetings involved, how long they last, whether (and what kind of) work will be needed outside of committee meetings, and the length of the term on the committee.


An orientation session for the committee chair can provide the information needed for a successful year. Each chair should be given a kit which includes:

  1. A personal letter of thanks from the council chair;
  2. A complete list of committee members, their email and telephone numbers;
  3. Necessary background material on previous committee's work: committee reports, minutes, etc.;
  4. A list of last year's committee members.

After the kit is distributed, the chair should discuss the overall program of work and members’ parts in it. They should be told what they can expect from extension faculty and staff and from whom. Possible areas of overlap should be noted, and the authority of each committee spelled out given existing policy established by the extension council.

By doing these things, the council chair lets the committee chairs know what is expected of them and where their activities fit into the overall picture. After a question-and-answer period, they, along with the help of extension staff, are ready to recruit committee members (if they are not already selected) and to call the first meeting.

Orienting committee members

Mere assignment to a committee does not guarantee positive action by its members. Proper orientation will go a long way toward guaranteeing participation.

Orientation typically should take place in the first meeting of the entire committee and consist of the following:

  1. The committee chair thanks the members for accepting their assignment and gives basic reasons for their selection. Their “looking toward community good,” ability, leadership, analytical minds and so on may be mentioned as criteria used in making the choice;
  2. The chair introduces each member of the group to increase cohesiveness;
  3. The chair advises the committee of its role in carrying out its part of the extension council local plan of work;
  4. The chair defines the committee's authority and activities;
  5. The chair or designee presents background material on the past committee's projects; and
  6. The chair presents each committee member with a file with the committee roster and any written material that would clarify the above items.

Members should leave this meeting with an understanding of the committee objectives and a feeling of wanting to participate on a team.

Committee responsibilities

Committees carry out the responsibilities in different ways, but all committees need to have a clear vision of their tasks and goals. During the first committee meeting, the chair should clearly define the tasks that need the committee's attention, members’ responsibilities and the support they can expect from extension staff.

Meeting preparation

It is important that the extension council chair and committee chair confer before the meeting about the agenda, the issue(s) to be discussed, possible solutions or decisions and other pertinent matters. Materials needed for the meeting and physical arrangements also should be planned.

The agenda

Once the need for a committee meeting is determined, it is necessary to build an agenda around that need. This agenda, prepared by the committee chair and extension engagement specialist, should typically include such items as:

  • A review of the previous meetings either by minutes or by the chair;
  • Background of facts on the issue to be discussed;
  • Discussion of the issue;
  • Possible decision;
  • Setting of the next meeting.

The time and place for the meeting will depend on committee members’ availability. The chair typically selects the day and time.

Notices should be sent early enough for members to reserve time to attend the meeting, yet late enough so the meeting will not be forgotten. The notice should include time, place, date, purpose and background material (if needed). It should be signed by the chair.

Physical arrangements

Preparation of the meeting room leads to the meeting’s success. Size is the first consideration. A five-person committee should not sit in a room set up for 100 people.

Committee members should be introduced. If the meeting is large and the members are not acquainted with each other, name tags or table tents should be used.

Meeting and follow-up

The chair is the key person promoting discussion during meetings, bringing the group to decisions and ensuring that follow-up is completed.

How to get discussion

Non-participants can be brought into the group action by asking them questions. The chair might say, “Jim, we haven't heard your ideas on the matter.” Big talkers become a problem, which the chair must solve by planning for controlling them. One method of dealing with big talkers is for the chair to briefly re-state the points made by the speaker and then ask another person for their ideas. If a discussion is extremely important and heated, with many people wanting to express ideas, a time limit might be given to each speaker.

Writing the minutes

A committee secretary should keep minutes. After the meeting, the minutes are distributed to the committee members, whether they were present or not. The committee's report (or minutes) also should be sent to the extension council.

The minutes should include date, place, time, those present, those absent, presiding officer's name, action taken, what should be done to follow up this action, and date, time and place of next meeting. Enough summary of discussion should be included to justify any decisions reached. Minutes should be signed by the secretary.


Committee decisions are meaningless unless action follows the meeting. If no decision has been reached and the next meeting is to cover the same subject, the follow-up may be gathering additional data or making assignments to subcommittees and requiring that their reports be submitted.

If the committee reaches a decision, follow-up may be a written recommendation to the council, a minority report, letters to government agencies, or active participation by committee members in reaching whatever goal the decision establishes.


Committee effort can be evaluated jointly by the chair and the committee. This evaluation is continuing but should be formalized in report form once a year.

Without some sort of control, committees will become self-perpetuating. The number and types of committees should be evaluated periodically to determine whether the same committees are needed year after year.

The extension council chair must work for turnover in each committee each year, keeping committees supplied with new talent and using committees to develop leadership.

Committees and purpose

Program committee

Types of program committees vary by county but may include agriculture profitability, business and community development, building human resources, health and nutrition, etc. During the year, the committee usually will meet once or twice to identify programming needs in its specific area. A willingness to learn about and interest in the areas being discussed is as important a criterion for committee members as experience or knowledge in the field.

Extension staff support includes:

  • Report on past programs in the county.
  • Report on county demographics.
  • Report on programs available.
  • Update committees on new technologies and methods.
  • Use the committee's recommendations in program plans.
  • Report to the committee on programs conducted during the year.
  • Extension council involvement.
  • Identify program needs in the county.
  • Make recommendations on programs and methods.

Time period: Meetings may be held anytime during the year.

Election and nomination committee

The election committee is responsible for conducting annual elections for the extension council and nominating officers. Approximately one-half of council positions are elected each year. It is comprised of county council members who are not up for re-election.

Extension staff support:

  • Prepare documents showing districts, council members and their terms, and potential nominees.
  • Prepare legal materials for changing districts or council membership, if needed.
  • Publish news stories, legal notices, prepare ballots and information sheets and mail ballots.
  • Notify candidates of election results.
  • Contact county officials to swear in officers.
  • File reports with state administration.

Extension council involvement:

  • Attend election committee meetings.
  • Submit names of nominees.
  • Contact nominees.
  • Count ballots.
  • Nominate officers.
  • Contact officer candidates.

Time period

November: Publish public request for candidates.

December: Legal notice of election published publicly.

January: Hold elections, count ballots, contact candidates to report results.

February: Nominate officers, contact nominees; elect officers at the annual meeting.

March: On or before March 1, swear in officers with county clerk.

Budget committee

The budget committee has responsibility for developing and presenting the budget to the county commission.

Extension staff support:

  • Meet with county staff on budget needs.
  • Prepare documents showing expenditures.
  • Explain financial records.
  • Communicate with extension administration about budget needs.
  • Visit informally with county officials.
  • Participate in the formal budget hearing.
  • File reports with state administration.

Extension council involvement:

  • Attend budget committee meetings.
  • Learn about the council's financial situation.
  • Develop the budget request.
  • Make the budget presentation to the county commissions.
  • Participate in the formal budget hearing.

Time period

January: Communicate with county commission to finalize budget requested.

February: Input budget into QuickBooks.

July: Class One counties — Review current year expenses, identify next year's needs, develop budget request.

September: Submit budget to commission September 1

October: Counties other than Class One — Review current year expenses, identify next year's needs, develop budget request.

November: Council approves the budget request.

December: Request an audience and present budget request to county commission.

At least quarterly: Advise county commission of the results of their investment.

Personnel committee

The activity of the personnel committee will depend on personnel changes in the county. County-employed staff (secretaries, most often, but occasionally education assistants) are hired by the council, and the council has the authority to remove them from the position. University-employed staff (specialists and education assistants) are hired by the University and are placed in a county upon approval of the council. Some counties will handle personnel matters with the full council and not use a personnel committee.

Extension staff support:

  • Advertise position openings according to affirmative action/equal opportunity guidelines.
  • Interview applicants.
  • Make recommendation to personnel committee or the full council.
  • Write job descriptions.
  • Communicate with extension administration.

Extension council involvement:

For county-employed staff:

  • Review applications.
  • Interview applicants.
  • Recommend candidates to the full council.

For university-employed staff:

  • Meet the candidates.
  • Make recommendation to full council.

Time period: As staff vacancies occur.

Special events committee

All counties have annual meetings, but events such as town and country dinner, fall festival, summer ice cream social, etc., vary. Special events committees have responsibility for planning and carrying out the events: arranging for publicity, contacting speakers, selecting facilities, planning menus and recruiting volunteers, if necessary.

Public relations and marketing committee

Some counties have public relations committees to increase the visibility of and support for MU Extension programming in the county.

Extension staff support:

  • Provide a summary of current marketing efforts and materials available
  • Use county reports with county commissions for a mid-year update on extension programming.
  • Joint responsibilities.
  • Evaluate the current public image, set goals for public relations projects, make contacts with community organizations and help with special promotions.

Time period: designated by the council.

Facilities committee

Facilities committees analyze offices to improve efficient operations and the public image. They also examine how the facility can be used best to meet the educational programming needs in the county. The committee then develops a long-range plan for the budget committee regarding equipment purchase. In some cases, this might include a change in office location and structure.

Extension staff support:

  • Inventory equipment and assess office use to make recommendations to the committee.
  • Time period: Summer, for fall budget preparation.
Endowment and gifts committee

The committee develops an endowment and gifts program for the county with the help of MU Extension staff. This includes setting policy, making donation requests, record keeping, donor recognition, arranging publicity and conducting special projects to raise money. Refer to the philanthropy webpage for more information:

Recognition committee

This committee makes a recommendation to the full council on the state fair farm family. The committee determines what other types of recognition for volunteers or staff they would like to implement in the extension program.

Extension staff support:

  • Provide description of the award, list of past recipients and criteria for the award.
  • Communicate with recipient and extension administration.

Extension council involvement:

  • Nominate candidates.
  • Select recipient and alternate.

Time period: One or more months prior to deadline.

Limitations of committees

They can require extra time.

A few people may dominate the committee's work.

A committee chair may be left with all the follow-through.

Decisions may be made in the interest of time and not by studying the issue.

The extension county council chair may try to avoid these problems by asking committees to set regularly scheduled meetings, clarifying the committee chair’s and members’ responsibilities, seeing that minutes are kept and distributed to committee members, and asking for reports from committees so that all views are represented.

Council calendar

March 1 New council takes office*
March Monthly requisition of county commission* Quarterly tax report due to state and federal UMca C204 Certificate of Membership New members sworn in by county clerk Elect officers Nomination of committees (budget, election, etc.) Schedule of meeting dates publicly published and due to RD Affirmative action report placed in civil rights file UM-UE 103A, County budget summary due to Quickbooks coordinator UM-UE 122, County general operating budget UM-UE 123, County other budget
April Monthly requisition to county commission*
May Monthly requisition to county commission*
June Quarterly tax report due to state and federal revenue service quarterly Quarterly report to commission Monthly requisition to county commission*
July Monthly requisition to county commission*
August Monthly requisition to county commission*
September Quarterly tax report due to state and federal Quarterly report to commission Monthly requisition to county commission* Class One counties budget request due to commission for next year day 1.
October Monthly requisition to county commission*
November Publish request for election candidates Monthly requisition to county commission*
December Present proposed budget to county commission Publish legal notice for county election* Quarterly report to commission Prepare annual financial summary* Monthly requisition to county commission* Prepare annual report*
January Hold council election* Monthly requisition to county commission*
February Present annual report to Commission Day 1 Nominate officers Hold annual dinner Monthly requisition to county commission*

Dates of regular meetings

University of Missouri Extension Council of ________________ County
Meetings for the year beginning March 1, 20_______
Location: ___________________________________

Month Date Time Type of meeting

Date of next annual meeting: _______________

Chart of precedence of motions and summary of rules governing them

From Roberts Rules of Order, written in 1915.

  May interrupt a speaker Requires a second Debatable Vote required Motions that may apply
Privileged motions
1. To fix time to which to adjourn No Yes Limited Majority Amend, Reconsider
2. To adjourn (unqualified) No Yes No Majority None
3. To take a recess No Yes Limited Majority Amend
4. To rise to a question of privilege Yes No No Chairman rules All
5. To call for the others of the day Yes No No None None
Subsidiary motions
6. To lay on the table No Yes No Majority None
7. To call for the previous question No Yes No 2/3 Reconsider
8. To limit: or extend limits, of debate No Yes Limited 2/3 Amend, reconsider
9. To postpone definitely No Yes Limited Majority Amend, reconsider, previous question
10. To refer to a committee No Yes Limited Majority Amend, reconsider, previous question
11. To amend No Yes Yes Majority Amend, reconsider, previous question
12. To postpone indefinitely No Yes Yes Majority Limited debate, previous question, reconsider
Main motions
13. a. General main motions No Yes Yes Majority All
b. Specific main motions          
To take from the table No Yes No Majority None
To reconsider Yes Yes Yes Majority Limited debate, previous question, table
To reconsider and have entered on minutes Yes Yes No None until called for Postpone definitely
To rescind No Yes Yes 2/3 All
To expunge No Yes Yes 2/3 All
To adopt a resolution No Yes Yes Majority All
To adjourn (qualified) No Yes Limited Majority All
To create orders of the day No Yes Yes Gen., Maj., Spec. All
(special)       2/3  
To amend (constitution, etc.) No Yes Yes 2/3 All
Incidental motions          
To suspend rules No Yes No 2/3 None
To withdraw a motion No No No Majority Reconsider
To read papers No Yes No Majority Reconsider
To object to consideration Yes No No 2/3 Reconsider
To rise to a point of order Yes No No Chairman rules or Majority None
To rise to parliamentary inquiry Yes No No None None
To appeal from the decision of the chair Yes Yes Limited Majority All except amend
To call for a division of a question No Yes No Majority Amend

Parliamentary procedure

Based on Roberts Rules of Order

To do this You say this May you interrupt the speaker? Must you be seconded? Is the motion debatable? What vote is required
*Adjourn the meeting "I move the meeting to be adjourned" No Yes No Majority
*Recess the meting "move the meeting be recessed until..." No Yes No Majority
*Complain about noise, room temperature, etc. "Point of privilege" Yes No No No Vote
*Suspend further consideration of something "I move to table the motion" No Yes No Majority
End debate "I move the previous question" No Yes No 2/3 vote
Postpone consideration of something "I move this matter to be referred to a committee" No Yes Yes Majority
Have something studied further "I move this matter to be referred to a committee" No Yes Yes Majority
Amend a motion "I move that this motion be amend by" No Yes Yes Majority
Introduce business (a primary motion) "I move that ..." No Yes Yes Majority
*Object to a procedure or to a personal affront "Point of order" Yes No No No vote, chair decides
*Request information "Point of information" Yes No No No vote
*Ask for a vote by actual county to verify a voice vote "I call for a division of the house" No No No No vote
*Object to considering some undiplomatic matter "I object to consideration of this question" Yes No No 2/3 vote
*Take up a matter previously tabled "I move to take from the table" No Yes No Majority
Reconsider something already disposed of "I move to reconsider the action relative to ..." Yes Yes Yes Majority
Consider something out of its scheduled order "I move to suspend the rules and consider ..." No Yes No 2/3 vote
Vote on a ruling by the chair "I appeal the chair's decision" Yes Yes Yes Majority
*source unknown
*Not amendable


IMPACT Leaflet No. 13, Utilizing Member Resources (PDF)