The Non-Profit Advisory Board/Committee

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    In the nonprofit sector there are two types of “Advisory” groups: those that advise, and those that don’t.

    In my experience, Advisory Boards are created for just about any reason you can think of; but very often – in the non-profit sector, the term is a euphemism for a group of major donors who have agreed to help raise money from their peers and/or is a way to give recognition to those donors.

    The key to the successful functioning of (that kind of) an Advisory Board is to (first) clearly define its mission, goals and objectives, and to have a clear job description (if that “board” really has a mission, goal or “job”) for the members of that group.

    If you create an Advisory Board, and it’s not clearly understood by the members of that group that they are not there to advise (other than for fundraising purposes), you’d better be prepared to take the advice that comes from that Board/Committee.

    If the group is not there to advise, that sort of suggests it might be better to call it something else.

    I’ve often heard folks in the Non-Profit sector express the feeling that people who are recruited to an Advisory Board for their skills, insights, contacts and/or common sense shouldn’t be asked for money in addition to being asked to “work” for the organization. That’s a serious mistake!!

    Anytime an NPO creates a Board or Committee of any kind, it should be understood that if the members of that group have any visibility in the “community” — as individuals and as part of that group — then whatever they do sets an example for the rest of that community.

    If those visible individuals do not give to the organization, it suggests that they are not fully committed to the achievement of the mission — that they are merely indulging in a pastime or hobby — that the organization might be worth lending their name and/or giving some of their time, but not worth investing their money.

    Anytime there is a (formal or informal) group created to help advance the mission of an organization, the members of that group must also support the organization financially. Anything else sends the wrong message to the community.
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