The Four Steps of Developing Advisory Boards
The Employer Partnership Pipeline Revisited: The Philanthropic Level Series
Part 2: The Four Steps of Developing Advisory Boards
During the last edition of this series, I laid out the five steps of developing a sponsorship program as one way to engage employers at a philanthropic level as the next step of the employer partnership pipeline. In part 2, I will focus on developing an advisory board.
Why have an advisory board? The book Start-Up CEO: A Field Guide to Scaling Up Your Business by Matt Blumberg, dedicates a part of the book on building and leading a board. Advisory boards can serve as your accountability partner and forcing function for quality. They can also help you see patterns and things you may have missed as well as engage in healthy discussions and debates.
The first key to developing a board is realizing that patience is key to building one over time. Here are the four steps to take.
First, you should set clear expectations of the board and its members through bylaws and a formal application process. You may want to ask yourself the following questions as a part of the process:
- What will be the purpose of your advisory board?
- What are the responsibilities of both the university and advisory board members?
- What is the make-up and size of the board?
- What are the expectations in terms of meeting frequency and level of participation?
- What is the financial commitment of board members?
Once you articulate the answers to these questions and create your bylaws, it is time to think about the application process. What information would you like to gather from potential advisory board members for review? This may include a resume and statement of interest where the potential board members explain the value they may bring to the board. Have a clear timeline explaining when this application process would be complete.
Looking at your pipeline of employer partners, identify those that you would like to approach for involvement on the advisory board. You may also want to seek input and feedback from campus partners such as Institutional Advancement. Think about members that have demonstrated a level of commitment to your institution through their involvement and can speak their minds. It is important to take diversity into account as a part of this process which may include factors such as the industries represented, positions, level of relationship with the university, years of experience, and background. Reach out and share your vision. Then, review applications and make decisions on those that you would like to include on your board.
Once you have formally accepted members on to your board, it is now time to plan your inaugural meeting. Reach out to your board members and seek availability for this first meeting. This may be during non-peak campus activity and a date and time when your whole team can be available. You may also want to create a survey and gather feedback from the board on the topics they would like to cover during this meeting, other areas of interest and expectations. Based on this feedback, plan the meeting by setting the agenda and other materials such as presentations. Share these materials with the attendees prior to the meeting for review.
It is important to continue to keep your board members engaged beyond the formal meeting times. You may want to give board members the opportunity to hold positions within the board, such as a chair, vice-chair, and secretary. These positions may give board members a sense of accountability and ownership for their experience on the board. Based on the interests of the board and strategic priorities within your office and institution, you may want to create working groups that may meet outside of the formal meeting times. Lastly, a board that is all work and no play is not fun. Make it a point to include board members in special programs and to meet with them periodically throughout the year to check-in and to continue to solicit feedback.
Advisory boards provide a triad of benefits for all constituents involved. They give employer members an opportunity to give back and have greater access to the university. Career Services Offices can gain invaluable feedback on programming. The University can support the success of its students.
Does your office have a sponsorship program or advisory board or are you looking to create one? I look forward to hearing your experiences on working with philanthropic level employer partners.