Advisory Boards

advisory boards

Advisory boards are voluntary boards formed to advise and help a nonprofit’s board of directors. The members of an advisory board can supplement knowledge and expertise to offer more specific help in managing different aspects of the organization. 

What is an advisory board?

While a lot of the responsibilities for fundraising and day-to-day operations may fall to the staff or board of directors of an organization, there may be times when a task or event needs a level of expertise or knowledge that the team does not possess. In this case, it may be a good idea to create an advisory board. 

An advisory board is made up of volunteers who can do just what the name implies: advise the organization. It can be formed around various tasks or events that require more help. They can be temporary or long term. 

How is an advisory board different from a board of directors?

An advisory board has a similar goal to the board of directors, but it accomplishes this goal differently. Both help support a specific organization. However, how they offer that support is the differentiating factor.

While the board of directors is formed to help govern the organization, the board of advisors has no regulatory powers. Instead, the advisory board offers opinions on how things should be done, usually from a place of expertise. 

There are many reasons an advisory board might be formed. The key factor is that the volunteers have some experience that others in the organization may not have, and they use that expertise for the good of the nonprofit.  

How are advisory boards formed?

The first step to forming an advisory board is simple: Spot a need. When a nonprofit realizes they need specialized help, they may decide to form an advisory board focused on that specific problem. 

Once a specific need has been identified, it’s time to pick members who can fulfill that need. These will be volunteers; in fact, they might be current volunteers, board of director members, or new recruits. However, these members might also be people who are not currently involved in the organization. Whoever they are, they should have knowledge in the area on which the board is advising.

Once a team has been created, they should select a leader. This may be done by the organization or the advisory board itself. After the leader or leadership team has been selected, the board should create goals and meeting schedules. From there, the advisory board will be able to meet regularly to accomplish the goals that have been selected and help advise the organization. 

You can also invest in membership management software to help keep your advisory board organized and on task. These tools allow members to view their schedules, share documents, and message each other between meetings.

What are the different types of advisory boards?

There are many types of advisory boards an organization can form, and some nonprofits may actually have multiple advisory boards. 

The type of board created often depends on the goals of the organization. For example, a nonprofit wanting to connect with a younger population might form a Young Professionals advisory board filled with members from the population the organization wants to reach. This board might then help the organization network or offer advice on how to better connect with their age group.

Here are a few other examples of advisory boards:

  • Fundraising: This type of board can help organizations with fundraising goals and ideas.
  • Programmatic: This type of board can support organizations with specific programs or services that they offer.
  • Leadership: This type of board can help organizations create rules or boards to manage and govern. It’s important to note that this advisory board would not be the one doing the leading or governing.

This is just a general idea of the types of advisory boards that could be formed, and it really depends on the needs and desires of the organization itself.  

When should you form an advisory board?

Advisory boards are meant to advise organizations about specific things of which they have knowledge. If there is no need for that knowledge, then there is no need for the board. If that specific knowledge is needed, though, then an advisory board may be a great solution.

Bottom line

Forming an advisory board is a great way to allow volunteers to share their knowledge and expertise in a way that benefits a nonprofit’s specific goals and addresses their unique problems.

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