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Advisory Boards

A true advisory board is exactly that: advisory. It is distinct from the actual governing board of directors, and has no authority other than what is granted to it by the governing board. But, advisory boards can be very useful for nonprofits as idea-engines, “homes” for valued volunteers who have rotated off the governing board and wish to stay connected to the organization, or alternately, for not-yet-board-members, who wish to test-drive their relationship with an organization and who can bring helpful resources of time, talent, and treasure to the organization. Nonprofits may create advisory boards for a variety of reasons including as an additional resource for fundraising, to create a link with a specific group of stakeholders, such as government, or simply to tap into the brainpower of trusted and valued community members.

Three things to consider

Before inviting anyone to join an advisory board, make sure the role and authority of the advisory board is well-considered.

  1. Do you have a written “charter” (mission statement) for the advisory board, just as you would for a board committee?
  2. Are the expectations for advisory board members clear? Do the expectations include financial support? How much time do you expect the advisory board members to give to the organization? If travel to meetings is involved, will the nonprofit reimburse for travel costs?
  3. Have you clarified the limits of authority of the advisory board? (e.g., that it does not have the authority to vote on actions but instead is expected  to make recommendations either to the governing board, or to the staff, or to a designated committee of the board.)

More Resources About Advisory Boards