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Division of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources

Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Service

Oklahoma State University

College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources

Oklahoma Agricultural Experiment Station

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Coordinator and Steering Committee Section

  • Coordinator
  • Steering committee
    • Advantages of using an steering committee
    • Tasks of an committee
    • Who should be included
    • Steps
    • For the coordinator:  Organizing the steering committee meeting
    • Comments regarding commitment
    • Sample invitation letter
    • Agreement form
    • First meeting notice
    • Sample committee meeting agenda


Developed by Renée A. Daugherty, Ph.D.and Sue E. Williams, Ph.D.

Some material adapted from:
Palmetto Leadership / Christopher M. Sieverdes, Ph.D., Clemson University
Developing Community Leadership - The EXCEL Approach (Experience in Community Enterprise and Leadership Development) / University of Missouri Outreach and Extension 


The local Initiative for the Future of Rural Oklahoma Leadership Program needs a coordinator to oversee the development, implementation and evaluation/reporting of the program.  This responsibility is usually undertaken by a county Extension Educator. The person who will serve as coordinator needs to be identified before the Steering Committee is recruited. 


Advantages of Using a Steering Committee
  1. To provide the local extension staff with a broad-based advisory group which shares an interest in leadership and community development for economic development. 
  2. To serve as a sounding board for leadership, community, and economic development activities. 
  3. To serve as a liaison with key community decision makers and function as a clearinghouse for task force reports. 
  4. To support and legitimize the Extension Service's programming efforts in community leadership and policy education. 
  5. To recruit, screen, and select participants for the leadership development programs. 
  6. To become part of an interpersonal network interested in community and leadership development to improve the welfare of the community, area, or county. 
  7. To make contact with potential and actual participants regarding leadership program offerings. 
  8. To provide a broad base of local resources and contacts which will facilitate collaborative efforts. 
  9. To provide an opportunity for established and emerging leaders in communities to learn firsthand about Extension's delivery of services. 
  10. To assist with committee meeting preparations, fund development for food functions and other needs, leadership program curriculum selection, developing and/or conducting leadership program sessions, travel arrangements, and general operation of the leadership program. 
  11. To serve as a resource group at the community level in the role of speakers, experts, and interested parties in a wide variety of subjects related to community development. 
  12. To provide a support system and information network for the local leadership program coordinator. 


Tasks of the Steering Committee for the Local Leadership Program
  1. Advise and counsel the Leadership Program coordinator (usually the county Extension Educator) regarding the operation of the program in the local setting. 
  2. Assist in the recruitment and screening of  Leadership Program class participants. 
  3. Assist the coordinator with schedule selection, curriculum topic selection, speaker recommendations, securing facilities, program evaluation and reporting, fund development, and program promotion. 
  4. Act as a liaison and support group to the leadership class when dealing with key county and community decision-makers. 
  5. Provide a broad base of local resources and contacts to the local leadership program and coordinator. 
  6. Provide an opportunity for community leaders to learn firsthand about community development and strategic planning methods, skills, and tools. 
  7. Assist with the planning and implementation of committee meetings, leadership class sessions, class and resource personnel logistics, and general program operation. 
  8. Serve as a resource to conduct promotional presentations and class sessions as appropriate. 


Who Should Be Included?
Selecting committee members is probably the most important responsibility of the leadership program coordinator in implementing the Initiative for the Future of Rural Oklahoma Leadership Program.  Be sure to use a great deal of care in selecting these members -- make every one of your choices count! Include key, respected, and influential decision makers to serve on the steering committee. Welcome diversity in terms of demographics and opinion. 
Even though there is no magic number, the average size of an Steering Committee may vary from five to eleven members. An ideal size is approximately seven members.
Some possibilities for selection are:
  1. Elected or appointed public official from a municipality or the county 
  2. School superintendent or school board chair 
  3. Chamber of Commerce president or executive director 
  4. Electric or energy utility manager 
  5. Manager or other official representing a financial institution 
  6. Manager or other official representing an industrial firm 
  7. Well-known and respected agricultural leader 
  8. Manager or other official from major institution or agency  (college, technical college, hospital, law enforcement, emergency services, public works)
  9. Chair of local Extension advisory council 
  10. Key leaders representing various demographics of the geographic area to be served by the Leadership Program, such as ethnicity, gender, and age groups
  11. Key leaders from different socio-economic groups 
  12. Representative of an environmental group 
  13. Representative of a special interest group 


What Should be Done Next?
A prerequisite to forming the Steering Committee for the local leadership program is a thorough understanding of the committee's purpose from the coordinator's perspective.  The rationale for having people -- and important people at that -- involved should be examined, discussed and agreed to by the coordinator and his/her supervisor. Your supervisor will have special insights based on politics, diversity, and community development efforts in other locations.  The Steering Committee will remain active for an indefinite period.  Membership will be rotated according to local policy. 
You are encouraged to anticipate questions that may be associated with recruiting committee members.  Note that failure to anticipate questions is one of the most common errors made by those recruiting new members. Consequently, being unprepared to respond to questions may result in the loss of some excellent potential members and viewpoints. When you can answer the questions listed below and related about the program, you are ready to actively recruit your committee.
First, make personal contact with each potential member to explain the program. Share a copy of the program brochure. Invite the member to attend a planning meeting. Note that it is vital that you have all members present at this planning meeting. Select several dates from which participants can choose. Be “user-friendly.” 
Be able to answer questions such as:
  1. What is the Initiative for the Future of Rural Oklahoma local Leadership Program?  What is its purpose? 
  2. Who are the sponsors? Who is paying for it? 
  3. What will I be asked to do? 
  4. How much time investment will it require? 
  5.  Why am I asked to serve on this Steering Community? 
  6. What is the overall job of the Steering Committee? 
  7.  Who are the other members? 
  8. Where, how often, and for how long will the committee meet? 
  9. How were the committee members selected? 
  10. What other groups or agencies will be involved as partners, collaborators, or resources? 
Send the letter of invitation to the potential committee members asking them to serve on the committee (see sample). This letter may be sent after your personal unofficial contact with the potential committee member. Before you send first letter representing you and your office, please keep in mind the importance of quality correspondence to everyone associated with this program.
Try to send individualized letters to everyone -- not a machine copy directed to "Steering Committee Member," "Community Leader," "Class Participant," etc.  Make it personal! Community development work is all about relationships and relationship building. 


For the Coordinator:  Organizing the Steering Committee Meetings
Two or three committee planning meetings should be all that are necessary, so be sure they are efficient, effective meetings.  Here are some suggestions:

Suggestions and Considerations

  1. Reserve an impressive, well-kept facility for all meetings.   Do not underestimate the importance of this.  First impressions are very important.  Some of the participants in this meeting are not very familiar with the Extension Service.  This is an opportunity for your county OSU Extension program to make a fine, first impression. To meet in a kitchen, a storage place, or some high traffic area is not conducive to effective meetings.
  2. Send a letter to the committee members inviting them to the first meeting.  Include an agenda. (See samples)
  3. Preparing for the first meeting: 
  •   Determine who the co-sponsors will be and have their total support prior to the planning meeting. Appropriate co-sponsors include County Council, City Council, Chamber of Commerce, etc. An appropriate number of co-sponsors would be three or four, including Extension. 
  • Prepare a tentative timeline, including program planning, program promotion, recruitment/selection/notification, class duration, and evaluation that can be used as a starting point for the committee.  Check area calendars of events for potential conflicts. 
  • Be prepared to discuss having a registration fee, and have a fee or fee range to suggest. One school of thought is that individual participants must personally pay some portion of the registration fee in order to acquire the individual's sense of personal commitment -- participants perform best when they develop a sense of ownership -- and that the fee not be entirely underwritten by local sponsors.
  • Compile your personal list of potential participants.
    1. Hold the committee meetings.  It will probably take more than one meeting to accomplish the following decisions and actions.
  • Serve light refreshments, if appropriate for time of day.
  • Distribute an agenda, briefly review, and ask if there are additions or questions. 
  • Welcome and introduce everyone. Distribute a list of committee members with contact information.
    • Explain Extension's interest in and support of community leadership development.  Review the concepts of the leadership program. 
    • Answer questions and further explain how the program will fit your locale's needs.
    • Have the committee discuss and decide what process will be used for participants recruitment, nomination and selection.
    • As a committee, develop a plan with timeline to promote the Leadership Program and identify the strategies to be used and tools needed.  Identify who is going to do what and due dates.  Some things to consider include:
      • a short presentation outline (with a slide show, such as PowerPoint) to describe the Leadership Program
      • participant recruitment brochure (see sample fill-in-the-blank brochure on this web site)
      • a "speakers bureau" of committee members who seek opportunities to give presentations about the Leadership Program to civic groups, professional associations, educational organizations, government agencies (after the program is underway, remember to involve participants to give "testimonials" about what they are learning)
      • news releases for the newspaper, radio and television
      • strategies for keeping the community updated after each class session on what the participants are learning, such as a regular column in the newspaper
    • As a committee, review the leadership program's multi-session model with opening and closing retreats and the tentative timeline developed by the Coordinator.  Determine the duration of the program, and select the dates for the opening and closing retreats.  Decide on the number, frequency, length (hours), and day of week for the intervening sessions between retreats.  Review the list of possible topics, and decide on topics.
    • Have the committee discuss the idea of a "Kick-Off" event with guests invited and whether or not that should be part of the program.
    • Review list of tentative meeting sites for each session. Be sure the room is large enough to seat the class (maximum of 30) on the outside of tables arranged in a large U-shape or a fan shape. The room should be accessible to running water so snacks can be prepared.
    • Have the committee develop a list of approximately 45-50 names of potential participants who represent a broad cross section of the locale.  Depending on what the committee has just decided, this may be the only nomination process used or it may be the start of the nomination process. Committee members should have brought with them the form provided for this brainstorming purpose. Encourage them to consider geography, profession, gender, age, race, community, etc.  Encourage committee members and sponsors to be class participants if they fit the target audience of the leadership program. Reserve a space for them in the class as first priority in class selection. 
    • Have the committee divide the final list of potential class participants (maximum of 30) among committee members so each can make a personal contact.  If the committee wants to expand its nomination process, make assignments for that as well. 
    • Have the committee decide on a deadline to have all potential class participants contacted (usually 7-10 days maximum). 
    • As a committee, develop a comprehensive list of VIP's who should be invited to participate in the "Kick-off" event (if scheduled) and Graduation. Often a graduation ceremony held as part of the agenda of the sponsoring local government's regular meeting is a good opportunity. Remember the importance of good public relations.
    • As a group, decide on top speakers (and alternates) for the "Kick-off" event (if scheduled). Make every attempt to get individuals who are well known, impressive, dynamic, and influential. (Consider U.S. or State congressional representatives and other state officials. Involve the Steering Committee to make contacts if necessary.)
    • If resource development is needed, have the committee develop a list of potential donors and contributors as well as the types of contributions needed. Ask committee members to assist in making these contacts. (Make assignments very specific with deadline dates.)
    • Summarize for everyone: what has been decided; who is doing what; and when they are doing it.
    • Express your appreciation to the Steering Committee and adjourn.


    Comments Regarding Commitment by Potential Steering Committee Members


    1. For communities to grow and prosper, they require involvement from leaders like you. 
    2. You have an obligation to your community to make it the very best place in which to live. 
    3. In order for (Name) County/Locale to grow and prosper along with neighboring counties, we must take steps now to ensure its future growth and development by building a solid community leadership base. 
    4. Many studies cite local leadership as the single most important factor in providing an environment for sustained economic development. 
    5. You can make a contribution to your community even though you may or may not think of yourself as an influential leader -- others probably do. 
    Concluding Thoughts 
    This outline represents a streamlined approach to the formation and functioning of a Steering Committee for a local Leadership Program in the Initiative for the Future of Rural Oklahoma. Many additional considerations are involved in working with such committees depending on the local traditions, culture, personalities, and stakeholders. Use what has been outlined here but do not hesitate to modify or expand the nature of your relationships and contacts with your committee members. 


    Sample Invitation to Become a Steering Committee Member 




    (Inside address of Invitee) 

    Dear __________: 

    As coordinator of the local Initiative for the Future of Rural Oklahoma Leadership Program for (insert geographic area), I am writing to ask you to serve as a member of the Steering Committee for this program. You have been identified as an important leader and community development resource to help establish this program in our area. We hope to benefit from your leadership, experience, and commitment to improving the quality of life in (insert local name). 

    The objective of the Leadership Program is to encourage emerging leaders to address community concerns. Developing leadership and community development capacity requires your involvement in a state and local partnership. Through this partnership, you can help make (Local name) the best place possible to live and work. Building significant leadership capacity at the local level is the key to sustained community and economic development.  The enclosure "Tasks of the Steering Committee" describes some of the efforts in which Steering Committee members will be involved.

    The program is community-driven through a local Steering Committee. This is a valuable educational and team-building opportunity to marshal resources and address local concerns through task force activities. I hope you will join us in the important endeavor. 

    I will contact you within the next two weeks to answer questions and learn your response to this invitation.  In the meantime, if you have questions, please feel free to contact me at (Phone number) or (e-mail address), or drop by the (county) Cooperative Extension Service office at (address).  If you are willing to serve on this committee, I will also ask you to complete and return the enclosed Steering Committee form.


    Thank you for your support.


    (Name of Local Coordinator) 



    Enclosures (2)



     Sample Steering Committee Form

    Initiative for the Future of Rural Oklahoma -- Leadership Program

    I hereby agree to serve on the Steering Committee and submit biographical information which can be shared with the committee and program participants as needed. 









    Job Title/Occupation:

    Name of Employer/Activity:

    Other Community Activities:


    Sample Thank You Note and
    Announcementof First Meetingof Advisory Committee 



    (Inside address of committee member) 

    Dear _______: 

    Thank you for agreeing to serve on the Steering Committee for the local Initiative for the Future of Rural Oklahoma Leadership Program for (insert geographic area). You have a special opportunity to play an important role in this exciting new program offered in our county. As one of (Local name) key leaders, your support and interest are vital to the overall success of this program. 

    I invite you to our first Steering Committee meeting at the following:

    (Indicate day, date, time, and place).

    I look forward to reviewing more information about the program with you at that time as we plan our activities. 

    Enclosed in a tentative agenda of the meeting and forms for brainstorming potential class member in the Leadership Program. Please begin to fill in forms and bring them to our meeting. I look forward to seeing you on (day). 


    (Local Coordinator's Name) 




    Sample Steering Committee Meeting Agenda

    [Note:  It will generally require more than one meeting to accomplish the work of the Steering Committee, so some agenda items below will need to be carried over to additional meetings.]





    1.  WELCOME                                                                                (Coordinator's Name)
      • Summary of Program Purpose
      • Goals and Responsibilities
      • List of Committee Members
      • Determine Timeline for Program Development, Promotion, Implementation and Evaluation
      • Decide How to Recruit and Select Leadership Program Class Participants
      • Determine Schedule of Retreats and Classes
      • Develop a Promotion Plan
      • Select Curriculum Topics and Speakers
      • Financing
      • Other
    7. ADJOURN
    Note to Local Coordinator: It is suggested that you prepare a list of the committee members and provide title, address, telephone, and FAX numbers for distribution at this meeting.) 


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