Creating a strong purpose creates a strong committee

Stay on task; create a purpose for your committee.

Every board, committee or council needs to have a clear purpose or objective to be able to conduct business in an efficient manner.  Having a clear purpose helps the group stay on target when daily operations, different personalities and agendas steer them in a different direction.

The purpose statement should be clearly outlined in the by-laws as the second article. For example: Article I: Name, Article II: Purpose.

Michigan State University Extension’s purpose is: Michigan State University Extension helps people improve their lives through an educational process that applies knowledge to critical issues, needs and opportunities.

Michigan 4-H Programs have a solid purpose which is: Our mission is to create non-formal, experiential education opportunities designed to connect in-school learning with out-of-school time activities that help youth thrive in a complex and changing world.

These purposes provide a good understanding of why the organization exists and what its basic goals are. In addition to the purposes above, Michigan 4-H also utilizes the 4-H Guiding Principles. A basic summary of these principles are:   

  1. Youth develop positive relationships with adults and peers.
  2. Youth are physically and emotionally safe.
  3. Youth are actively engaged in their own development.
  4. Youth are considered participants rather than recipients in the learning process.
  5. Youth develop skills that help them succeed.
  6. Youth recognize, understand and appreciate multiculturalism.
  7. Youth grow and contribute as active citizens through service and leadership.

The guiding principles help to define the goals and objectives of Michigan 4-H programs.

The Michigan 4-H Guiding Principles highlight the importance of youth involvement with decision-making in Michigan 4-H. Purpose statements should highlight the importance of youth development, youth leadership goals, county or project specific goals.

Example Purpose:

The Clover County (project area) Association’s aim is to help our 4-H Members to:

  1. Develop life skills such as, but not limited to, leadership, initiative, self-reliance, sportsmanship and other desirable character traits.
  2. Prepare for citizenship responsibilities through working in groups and supporting community projects and activities.
  3. Learn skills in project areas.
  4. Explore job opportunities in the (project area) industry.
  5. Youth develop positive relationships with adults and peers.
  6. Youth are physically and emotionally safe.
  7. Youth are considered participants rather than recipients in the learning process.
  8. Youth develop skills that help them succeed.
  9. Youth recognized, understand and appreciate multiculturalism.
  10. Youth grow and contribute as active citizens through service and leadership.

This is just one sample, as there are many ways, to write a purpose however, the best practice is to keep it as clear and concise as possible. When developing a purpose always consider putting all seven of the guiding principles into your purpose either as the simple list outlined in the beginning of this document or written within one of the bulleted items within your purpose.   

Having a strong purpose is a great start for your advisory committees. However, in order for a group to really get off on the right foot they will need to have a complete set of clear by-laws as well. 

Other articles you may find helpful when developing a committee may be Maximize the effect of advisory groups in youth-serving organizations, by Janelle Stewart and Jackie Martin or  Benefits of involving youth on decision-making boards and committees, by Jackie Martin.

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