The Advisory Board: A Nonprofit’s Secret Weapon

Tips for Nonprofit Support and Help

Your nonprofit could use more manpower? Having an advisory board might help!

In order for a nonprofit to achieve its goals and ultimately be successful, it should create and utilize an advisory board, which complements its governing board. Unlike a board of directors, the advisory board simply advises, without any authority or legal responsibilities.

Qualified members of an advisory board are expected to bring years of experience that adhere to and support the mission statement of the organization. Most organizations would prefer for the members to be well-connected in their professions and communities, but dedicated and motivated volunteers are valuable assets, also.

The more diverse an advisory board, the more contributions it can make to vital components of the organization, such as fundraising, development, marketing, and providing general feedback. Ideally, the members should have “expertise in areas that the nonprofit’s staff or governing board members do not have,” according to Elizabeth Layne’s Role of an Advisory Board in a Nonprofit.

When creating an advisory board, do outline objectives and goals for the members.

In Don’t Go it Alone: Create an Advisory Board, Christine Comaford provides some helpful tips on how to get and keep advisers:

  1. Define member profiles – Make a list of the skills and connections that you would like the members to have.
  1. Determine your expectations for each advisor – Outline how much of a commitment and amount of time you will expect from each member.
  1. Create a pitch and comp package – Find a way to sell the idea of becoming an adviser to members in a way that is attractive and engaging, as well as rewarding and meaningful. Consider presenting options like these in your pitch:
  • Networking opportunities
  • Stock options
  • Giving back to and helping the community
  1. Brainstorm your target list – Reach out to your network (friends, colleagues, mentors, financiers, etc.) to see if they have connections to anyone who matches your member profiles.
  1. Seek out your targeted advisers and recruit them – Find a way to get in touch with those who you would like to have on your board and invite them to join.
  1. Celebrate, incorporate, and communicate – Communicate that you now have an active advisory board by adding their names (and bios) to your organization’s communication flow.

Additional resources and information on advisory boards:

Do You Need an Advisory Board? Benefits and Considerations: Part 1

Role of an Advisory Board in a Nonprofit

Leverage the Power of Advisory Boards for Your Nonprofit

Advisory Boards: Engaging Donors and Developing Leaders



About the Author: A reformed fashion addict, Aloma Arter now spends her time writing, walking her dog, beating her grandmother at Scrabble, and seeking awesome adventures. She holds a BA in Media and Professional Communications from the University of Pittsburgh (and a certificate in Community and Corporate Relations).