Most amateur theatre productions are organised by a team of dedicated committee members who keep things running, choose directors, choreographers, musical directors and fund raise tirelessly for the group. One of the things being experienced recently is that a committee is only as strong as it’s weakest member and to maximise the success of the society you need lots of different skills to keep things going. One of the things I’ve seen done to improve this is to create job titles for our committee members which have to be filled every year. So here’s a few tips to making sure your committee is in tip-top shape:
Roles and Responsibilities
This is integral to the running of committees and there’s a lot to learn from the structure of other groups’ committees, watching their shows and finding details in their programmes and on their websites. Some of the roles include:
- Chairperson- keeps meetings running to the agenda and timeframe but does not offer an opinion unless requested by the committee
- Vice Chairperson- acts as substitute for Chairperson whenever required
- Treasurer- looks after and acts as a sense check on the groups expenditure and savings
- Secretary/Clerk- takes minutes of meetings, keeps group records and completes admin tasks for the group
- Social Secretary- responsible for regular social events for members, supported by sub-team
- Marketing Secretary- responsible for publicity, press releases and marketing materials, supported by sub-team
- Youth Secretary- responsible for communicating with, organising and looking after junior society membership. Also the designated child and vulnerable adult protection officer
- Communications/Membership secretary- responsible for communicating with the membership and disseminating messages so that members have a single point of contact on the committee
There is also the role of production manager who is appointed alongside the director, choreographer and musical director for each show ensuring that health and safety and child protection laws are adhered to during the get in, the run of the show and the get out.
This is key to make sure that the membership all feel an integral part of the group especially in groups with over 50 annual members. Make sure that your committee is re-elected every year and that there are several open calls for proposals for new committee members. Healthy turnover is good, and it prevents burnout.
One of the best ways to keep members involved is by ensuring you have regular communication with them. One of the ways you can do this is by making sure you have plenty of social events to keep members meeting up and celebrating members’ successes outside of the group. Here are some of the other things you could do to keep in touch with your members:
- Facebook group- here you can post updates including members notices, updates on fundraising events, ticket sales and rehearsals but as a more fun side of it you could upload rehearsal and production images, have caption competitions, post jokes, social events and carry out polls to the membership
- Email newsletter- including pictures, and updates on articles from NODA, other neighbouring groups and membership notices. Websites like Mailchimp allow you to do this for free and provide easy forms that you can email out or put on your website and social media to get members to sign up to them
- Printed newsletters to offline members- this can be a printed version of the email but is important to keep any members who aren’t online in the loop.
- A group website- here you can upload membership documents, audition pieces, music practice tracks, videos of choreography, membership data collection forms and more
- Annual membership surveys which you can compare year on year
If you can master keeping your members engaged and invoked, the rest should be easy as pie.
Efficient Membership data collection
Part of the challenge of keeping in touch with your members is about having the right data to get in touch with them. For every production why not have an online form that members fill in before auditions take place asking for names, DOBs, email addresses, physical addresses and other information you might want to collect such as how they’d prefer to have information sent to them. Having an online form saves a lot of admin and if you have an paper copy for offline members you can input it to the central spreadsheet quickly and easily. I would recommend Google Forms or Survey Monkey for these tasks as they are easy to use and share amongst members via a link on your website.
This is a style of innovation which is taking the business world by storm and can be applied with just as great effect in the world of amateur theatre. It means that you should be constantly aiming to try new things by identifying areas of your organisation that don’t work as well as you’d like them to. Come up with a solution, trial it and if it doesn’t work, adapt it or move on from it and try something else. This is a great way to keep things fresh and to be successful in moving forward and embracing change. It is much easier said that done though, real fail-fast change can take years to polish but once you’ve got the hang of it, you’re on a winning streak.
Get rid of Bureaucracy
This can be very confusing for members and it could turn some people away. Here’s some things that you can do to make sure that you get the best from your members and the public:
- Hold open auditions for every show- this ensures you get the pick of all the talent and provides a regular opportunity to bring new blood into your society
- Take a regular look at your groups’ constitution – build a constitution from the ground up and implement rules which are clear to understand and practice. Often things are added one-by-one over the years and become confusing and contradictory. Try the ‘if we were starting out from scratch today, what would we include?’ approach to clear your mind of what came before
- Make every role accessible and change it regularly to ensure that members feel the society is friendly, open and democratic
- Get rid of red tape- don’t hide anything from your members or the public, practice openness and honesty and your reputation and running practices will follow suit
- Regularly self evaluate, talk about what’s going well and what’s going badly- this will make it conducive to good practice and encourage improvements.
If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got
If you can implement some of the suggestions in this blog post, you’re well on your way to reforming your society and leading the way in organising and efficiency.