Chances are, your not-for-profit is governed by a board of directors. However, an informal advisory board can bring complementary — and valuable — skills and resources to this group.
Look at the demographics and collective profile of your board members. Does it lack representation from certain groups — particularly relative to the communities served by your organization? An advisory board offers an opportunity to add diversity to your leadership. The board members’ skillset should also be considered. If your board lacks extensive fundraising or grant writing experience, an advisory board can help fill those gaps.
Adding advisory board members can also open the door to funding opportunities. If your not-for-profit is considering expanding its geographic presence, find an advisory board member from outside your current area who is connected with business leaders and able to introduce board members to appropriate people in his or her community.
The advisory role creates an opportunity for people who cannot commit to a board position to get involved. The advisory role also often appeals to individuals who are retired or stay-at-home parents wanting to get involved with a not-for-profit on a limited basis.
You can also test out potential board members with the advisory role. If a spot opens on your board of directors and some of your advisory board members are interested in making a bigger commitment, you will have a pool of informed individuals from which to choose.
How you use your advisory board members is up to you. Still, the role of the advisory board members needs to be clear as they will likely be present at board meetings. Advisory board members are not involved in the governance of your organization and cannot introduce motions or vote on them.