Frustrated that your board members lack enthusiasm for the cause and don’t raise money?
Whether you’re the CEO or a board member, your nonprofit needs you to drive that board. It’s time to develop the board. Goal…
What if certain extenuating circumstances suggest that a direct approach to the board of directors is not a good idea at this time? Try advisory tips.
Advisory councils are a great way to top up the juices on a nonprofit organization’s leadership and advancement experience. Here are some reasons why:
- Recruit people who do not (yet) qualify to be members of the board of directors.
- It expands the opportunities to attract new talent, perspective and participation to the organization, people who feel honored by the appointment and want to contribute.
- Attract additional leadership to the organization without threatening current board members, i.e. you don’t have to force them to invite one to leave in order to invite another to join. And, if there’s a problem on the board, you can get around it by choosing to fight that battle another day.
- Involve leaders who want to serve but don’t want to take the fiscal responsibility (only the board of directors) for the nonprofit.
- It appeals to potential members who are often overly committed but still want to participate, so they like the typical board’s limited number of meetings per year.
- Helps focus members, thereby increasing the odds of success, through “single purpose” tips. If your council exists to “give or take,” members who accept an appointment have already committed to financial participation.
- It offers an opportunity to increase diversity among influencers in the organization.
- Act as a farm team to develop leadership for the board of directors and other organizational opportunities.
- Represents the organization or one of its departments, combining the professional experience or interests of the board members in the best way.
There are more reasons advisory boards can be your leadership or advancement cure-all. Add your own experiences to the list.
Perhaps your nonprofit organization reserves the authority to add councils and/or members to the board of directors. This may be appropriate, depending on your organization’s history and needs. But you may want to speed up the creation of advisory councils and the recruitment/appointment of members by developing a short advisory council plan and then requesting that the board pass a resolution authorizing the CEO to develop advisory councils and recruit members later. as required by the organization. You can also use the template as a job description to orient new council members.
Here is an example of what an advisory board plan might entail:
Assignment: Advise the General Manager on matters related to leadership in the organization and the community.
Advice: Experience, insight, strategic thinking, innovative ideas, networking, trend analysis, encouragement, vision casting, leadership, advocacy, mentorship, support, community opportunities, and contributions.
Membership: Members will be appointed for their leadership, experience, wisdom and contacts, which they can use to build the effectiveness and reputation of the organization. They must be people of good character whose lives and works, by association, will be a credit to others and to the organization. The members will be appointed by the Director General.
Terms: Members will serve without terms (or may develop terms) as long as the executive director and council member deem the service to be mutually beneficial.
Members must attend meetings faithfully and agree to financially support the organization on an annual or project basis.
Meetings: Councils will generally meet four times a year at meetings called by the CEO. Special meetings may be called from time to time.
Authority: Councils serve in an advisory capacity with the consent of the Board of Directors. The recommendations of the advisory council will have no legal or binding authority on the organization, but will likely influence the course of the organization’s development.
One last thought to make a cardinal rule of thumb: The worst thing you can do is appoint deputy advisory council members and then not use them (talk, convene, listen, engage, etc.). Putting people on a board that is going nowhere is a waste of time and disrespectful to their talent. Fool them once and you won’t fool them twice.
Advisory boards are a wonderfully flexible and potentially high-impact tool. Cleverly employed by a CEO or board, advisory councils can act as a chlorine shock to the organization’s leadership group. They can help clear things up so you can once again see where you are going and how you are going to get there.