ADVISORY BOARDS, CIRCLES, AND
Thousands of people worldwide
serve on advisory groups for government agencies, nonprofit organizations,
schools, and universities, to name a few. In some cases the group
and its activities and deliberations are a fulfilling experience for
the volunteer members and for the organization or agency that is being
Volunteer programs, especially
the very large ones, can benefit from engaging people in providing advice and
counsel on a variety of topics. This issue focuses on the types or styles
of advisory groups available to the manager of volunteers or other paid staff
or the leadership in an all-voluntary organization.
The first step in having an advisory committee is to determine what type
of advisory group is needed. Engagement of those affiliated with
the program or organization is a useful way to gain participation and
input from those most impacted by decisions.
Begin by asking questions
- What information can be gained from people advising on current
programs and practices?
- Will having an advisory board increase the transparency of the
- Is there an issue that needs study before moving on?
- Is the program too large and/or complex to gather this information
- Is there a staff person with the appropriate skills to oversee
this group? (Badly managed and staffed advisory groups are
worse than none at all)
- Are there sufficient people available who meet the criteria of
membership to serve on the advisory group?
Citizen Advisory Committee
|The most common type of advisory group is one with serial meetings
whose task is to understand programs, funding, and deliberate current
and future issues, advising on direction. It is not governance.
There are minutes and guidelines to spell out the membership criteria
and terms of service.
- Representatives of other agencies
- Regular schedule; monthly, quarterly; bi-annually
|The task force is also advisory, but on a specific issue or situation. The
task for this group is to provide solutions or recommendations for
action, often by paid staff or leadership volunteers.
Leaders are usually appointed by the convening organization
- Outside experts
- Representatives from those impacted by issues
- Time is always limited, but can last as long as a year, depending
on complexity of the issue
|This is a committee, usually of government, that is appointed by
elected officials. Frequently the board is established by the
laws or regulations of a governmental body. These advisory
groups usually have more authority than most advisory groups; i.e.,
library board, planning commission for county or city government,
parks and recreation advisory committee.
- Members are appointed by governmental entity.
- Members apply for open positions
- Members must usually be a resident
of the governmental entity appointing the volunteers
- Frequently a term of service in years
The emphasis for this type of advisory group is on gathering
perspectives, insights, and opinions of participants through conversation
and interaction. There is a skilled and trained facilitator,
who is viewed as neutral. Deliberations of the
group are usually videotaped. Paid staff should never attend People
who provide a cross section of views on the topic.
- Need for people in favor of the idea and those opposed and those
with no opinion, yet.
- On occasion selection can be random
||These advisory groups are made up of people who meet regularly
over a period of weeks or months to address a critical public issue
in a democratic, collaborative way. Participants examine the issue
from many points of view and identify areas of common ground. They
emerge with recommendations for action that will benefit the community.
- Groups are usually around 8 – 12 in size
- Groups are open to anyone interested in the topic
- Members do the
research and report to the group
- Duration depends on the topic under study.
- Can be weeks
or months, rarely more than 1 year
Liberally adapted from information at
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