To Whom Should Advisory Boards Provide Service?

 By: Eugene Fram

 I have established or served on a number of nonprofit advisory boards. Based on these experiences, I suggest that board members, along with the CEO, recruit the members of the advisory group.  Then the advisory group should become an outside group that can provide counsel to the CEO, not to the board. In many cases, an accrediting team can become a de facto advisory board for the organization’s board of directors. To complete the process, the CEO can report on advisory meeting outcomes to the organization’s board.  This arrangement has a number of advantages. 

 It can provide the CEO with a group of high-level competent advisors who can dispassionately apply their knowledge to the organization’s challenges.

  • The CEO can talk more openly to the group, for example, to test new program ideas before they are presented to the board.
  • Over time, some advisory boards members can be recruited as board members.
  • Advisory board members can often provide information on developing leads for fund development.
  • The advisory board can suggest venues for the CEO’s growth as a professional manager.  
  • Advisory boards provide a venue for organizational contact with knowledgeable people who have time-compressed work schedules, assuming the board only meets three to four times a year.  Of course, the preparations for these meetings must be first class to acknowledge appreciation of the time constraints of the participants.

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