boarddevelopment‎ > ‎

Tips for Using Advisory Committees

The Benefits

  • Advisory committees can be used for long-term or short-term assignments throughout your organization.  Advisory committees can provide boards, staff and specific programs with visibility, credibility, and access to individual expertise.
  • Advisory committees provide the opportunity to involve individuals who might not otherwise be involved with your organization.
  • Advisory committees are an excellent proving ground for future service to the organization.
  • Likewise, advisory committees can offer opportunities for key board members to stay engaged with the organization after they have rotated off the board.
  • Advisory committees are an excellent way of demonstrating that you, your program, and your organization are in touch with your community and that you are open to outside input.

The Caveats

  • Before forming an advisory committee/council/task force, remember that this team is an ad hoc group that your are bringing together to help you strengthen your program.  Have a very clear idea of the objectives for this group right from the start.  For example, will they provide subject matter expertise, help to raise funds, act as organizational ambassadors to elected officials? 
  • When developing projects and writing funding requests, think about how advisory committees might strengthen the project.
  • Once you've figured out what an advisory group will do for your organization, put those objectives in writing -- it will become the job description for the group.  You will want to use the job description to identify the best talent for the team and you will need to share it with your potential advisers.  Creating clear, written expectations for advisory committee service will help you and your advisers understand their roles and responsibilities.
  • Defining the objectives of this group will also help you determine the size of the advisory group you will need, the time frames and levels of activity needed for the work of this group. 
  • Have a clear idea or specific task in mind for each person when you ask that person to be an adviser.
  • Determine in advance how you will communicate with your advisory committee, and how often.  Will this group need to meet as a group, or can work be done individually with you; via phone, email, or conference call?
  • Think broadly when looking for advisers.  This is your opportunity to involve new constituent groups!  Advisers can bring new contacts and new networks into your organization's sphere.
  • When the objectives are met, what's next?  Will the group dissolve, go on hiatus, or take on a new role or assignment?  Will you continue to work with individuals from the group rather than the group as a whole?  Terminate an advisory group that no longer serves a purpose.
  • Recognition during and after the project is critical.  Often, advisers will have developed so much knowledge about the organization, and become so invested, that they'll be interested in continuing service.  What is the protocol for advancing an adviser in your organization?
  • Seeing to the care and feeding of advisory committees will require someone's time and attention -- it could be staff time or a board member's time, or a combination of people to ensure that planning, communication and follow-up with advisers is handled professionally and according to the objectives for the committee.  Figure this out in advance of forming any advisory committee.