What is an advisory board? Nonprofit advisory board definition

The advisory board is a board that governs an organization’s activities, created to help leaders perform their duties effectively and know where their weaknesses lie.

The nonprofit advisory board doesn’t directly have any impact on the actions of the organization but can offer helpful suggestions that will make the work of the board easier. Apart from that, advisory boards also spread awareness about the nonprofit to their communities and propose new leadership figures for the organization.

But how do we form such an advisory board?

How to form and use an advisory board for your nonprofit?

When a nonprofit organization’s board concludes that they need an advisory board’s help, they need to take the following steps to create a nonprofit advisory board.

  1. Establish the purpose of your advisory board. What problems are you trying to solve? How would an advisory board help you? What would be the role of advisory board in your organization? Answering these questions will help you set a clear goal for the advisory board.
  2. Designate a board member to recruit future advisory board members. To guarantee the competence of the future advisory board, one of the board members can oversee the recruitment process. Each advisory board member needs to be handpicked by a professional.
  3. Train the advisory board members. Board members who are willing to teach the advisory council might change over time, and each can train the advisory board in a different aspect. This way, the board ensures that everything is going according to plan.
  4. Ensure confidentiality. As the non profit advisory board members are fully incorporated into the structures of the nonprofit, they need to be held accountable to the same security standards as board members. They need to be aware of the advisory board responsibilities. Confidentiality in their actions is important, and a board portal might be helpful in that. 

Those are the basic steps in creating a nonprofit advisory board. The advisory board responsibilities are dependent on the reason it was created in the first place. Those might include:

  • Management. The organization has trouble with keeping track of everything and needs help with that aspect of the nonprofit.
  • Cashflow. Nonprofits could be created with a purpose to reach their objectives. And they often use fundraising to gain the resources needed for achieving their mission.
  • Internship. The board of directors might need to find someone that will take their place in the future, and this is why interns might be the perfect fit for an advisory board.
  • Events. Event organization might be another reason why an advisory board might be founded.

The aforementioned reasons are just some of the uses that an advisory board might have. We have discussed how to form a nonprofit board, but we have yet to make an advisory board vs board of directors comparison.

Benefits of an advisory board for your nonprofit: Comparison with boards of directors

After investigating the main characteristics of a non profit advisory board, you might pose a question like, “What are the main differences between an advisory board and a typical nonprofit board?” or “What does an advisory board do?” Here are the most outstanding features of both of those.

Nonprofit advisory boards benefits:

  • The nonprofit advisory board is not bound by as many rules as the board of the nonprofit. This enables them to act quicker.
  • It can give advice in areas that the board has no time to investigate. This can be observed in areas like technological advancements, or new software solutions.
  • The corporate advisory board increases the reach of the nonprofit by infiltrating less formal environments (community events, concerts, etc.). The advisory board is not as ingrained in the organization as the board, and they can use their own personal contacts to spread the word organically.
  • The members of the advisory board structure might become members of the board. The future board members need to go through a vetting process, and being on an advisory board helps with that.

Board of nonprofit benefits:

  • It has all the legal authority and obligations to the people involved in the organization. They are the leaders, but they are also burdened with everything connected to the legal side of the organization.
  • The board members are the decision-makers, the employers, and the recruiters. They are the body that is responsible for the approval of each activity related to the nonprofit.
  • The board of the nonprofit prioritizes and delegates tasks. As they decide the tasks, they can pick and choose which they want to focus on.
  • The board is also responsible for the creation of the advisory committee definition according to the organization’s guidelines.

Without the nonprofit board, there would be no advisory board. The comparison of the board of directors vs board of advisors wouldn’t take place without the main board. If an additional board is created, it can fall under different types.

The types of nonprofit advisory boards

There are a few reasons an advisory board might be brought to life. A few of them have been listed earlier in the article, but here are some of the main types of nonprofit advisory boards that support those reasons. 

  1. Administrative. Boards of the nonprofit might be so caught up in the current events that they might not have an objective view to keep up with the current tasks. This is where an administrative advisory board can help. They fit the advisory group definition, as they help in managing the paperwork, overseeing audits, and even supporting the recruitment process. 
  2. Fundraising. While managing loads of other events occurring simultaneously, the board might not have the resources to follow each fundraising event. The non profit coordinating committee of this type will take care of everything that the board does not have the time to do, including smaller fundraising events, as well as big charity campaigns.
  3. Mission support. When it comes to organizing campaigns and supporting other programs of the organization, the mission support advisory group might be the one that will cater to the board’s needs. It is a board that keeps track of all the ongoing programs and assists in creating new ones.
  4. Young professionals. Trying to build a career in the nonprofit sector might be difficult, and creating an advisory board consisting of young and willing professionals that want to be part of those boards that make a difference is also a viable option. This not only gives the up-and-coming professionals the practice they need, but they also can have professional letterhead with the board of directors permission.
  5. Symbolical. Those members do not directly fit into the advisory council definition. They do not make any decisions, and their impact on the organization is only ornamental. An example of such members could be engineers that specialize in creating new ways to supply water to African villages. They might approve the actions of a water-related nonprofit. The symbolic members use their names to strengthen such activities of the nonprofit. 


Nonprofit organizations have a lot on their plate as their main objective is not to make money but to make an impact. Advisory board positions might be filled with people who want to start making a difference in the world and learn how a board of a nonprofit works. Their advisory role isn’t something that an overburdened nonprofit can do without, hence the creation and upkeep of advisory boards is so important. A non profit advisor is bound by the requirements of an advisory boards charter.


Can a nonprofit have an advisory board?

Yes, they can. If a nonprofit board is struggling with too many tasks, it is natural to create an advisory board to help them with those tasks.

What does a nonprofit advisory board do?

They support the board in many activities ranging from administrative tasks to event organization. 

What is a nonprofit advisory council?

It is just another name for a nonprofit advisory board. A group of individuals that want to help the nonprofit board achieve its goals. 

When should a nonprofit advisory board be set up?

As soon as the board has too many tasks to deal with on their own. The advisory board will be able to take on some of the less important tasks and let the board focus on their main mission. 

How often should an advisory board meet?

There are no strict rules when it comes to advisory board meetings. They should meet as often as the tasks ahead of them require. This means that they will probably meet less frequently than the organization’s board.

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