What Is an Advisory Board Member?

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An advisory board is made up of volunteers who offer their input, ideas and expert advise to an organization's elected board of directors.

Advisory board members are not legally bound, but are important to the success of an organization through working with the board of directors. Without a strong board, nonprofit organizations may have limited success in meeting client and community expectations and needs.

What is an Advisory Board?

Nonprofit organizations are structured through a board of directors whose members are responsible for running the organization through designated positions which usually consist of a CEO, president, vice-president, secretary and treasurer. The board sets policies for ensuring excellent management.

An advisory board, on the other hand, helps organizations get feedback, ideas and opinions from the public. It does not have any legal or formal responsibilities, but is convened to give advice and support to the board of directors.

Having an effective advisory board is critical to organizational success. An advisory board plays an instrumental public relations role and provides the board with a fresh perspective on program issues. An advisory board works directly with the directors to brainstorm, discuss, debate and decide major organizational decisions.

Advisory Board Member Roles

A key to building a secure organization is having an independent advisory board of community leaders, parents and other interested people. Advisory board members are volunteers and should reflect diversified representation from various cultures, socioeconomic groups, and urban and rural settings.

Some advisory board members take responsibility for specific tasks while others only attend meetings and provide input and feedback. All members are expected to carry out a specific function independently. An advisory member's focus should be helping the board of directors with certain responsibilities, not replacing it. Both boards should work in a team effort with the organization's best interests in mind.

Advisory board members usually attend between two and 12 board meetings each year to share information, discuss ideas and make decisions. Once a structure is in place, the board can distribute its governing functions and responsibilities equally among its members to maximize its effectiveness.

Advisory Board Members Responsibilities and Duties

Advisory board members join an organization for a limited amount of time and pledge their personal, professional and financial resources to help assist in their mission. Advisory board member duties and responsibilities are assigned at the discretion of the board of directors. Some responsibilities typically assigned to an advisory board member include:

  • Develop business strategies.
  • Planning, fund-raising and community relations.
  • Create programs and policies.
  • Promotional Ideas and public awareness.
  • Develop subcommittees.
  • Attend meetings.
  • Contribute input and feedback.
  • Organizational development.
  • Strategic planning and decision making.

Advisory Board Member Orientation and Training

Advisory board members need to understand an organization to serve it effectively. Giving tasks to new members will allow them to develop a sense of belonging and help them become involved. Every board member will need ongoing training to remain current on organizational issues. This can be accomplished at scheduled board meetings.

Board members should receive public recognition for the important volunteer work that they do for the organization. Holding an annual recognition benefit or dinner is an easy and fun way to recognize board members and volunteers. Ensure that board members understand their individual roles and have the necessary resources to carry out their duties. Identify the skills needed for your organization and recruit and train board members based on those needs.


Working with an advisory board can be an enjoyable experience. When responsibilities are understood and members work together as a team, the result can be a successful and profitable business. Having a successful advisory board can provide the foundation for any organization and help it focus on fulfilling the organization's mission. The primary reason most businesses organize an advisory board is to help the executives of the board of director's to focus upon the day-to-day tasks of making their mission a reality.