Effective Advisory Board Practices

I have long maintained that advisory boards are the single most powerful partnership model available. If you can build a strong board, everything else you do, inside and outside the classroom, will be much, much easier.

Unfortunately, strong advisory boards tend to be the exception rather than the rule. More often than not, people are taught about compliance (the minimum required) but not about potential, and as a result you’ll often see boards that meet twice a year with employers lured by coffee, donuts, and a vague sense of obligation, to hear the program leader talk for an hour. There’s no advising going on at all, and the potential for real impact and change is lost.

To help counter this unfortunate trend, we’ve published a set of quality standards for advisory boards (which you can download here in PDF format) to help you create a structure and guidelines for your board. Three key areas to look at are:


Good documentation is essential – it captures the functions and activities of the board in writing, and ensures that your successor has the information they need to quickly get up to speed. Be sure you have bylaws, job descriptions, agendas, minutes, and copies of correspondence reflecting material events (welcome letters, dismissal letters, and so on).

Board Setup

You’ll need to think through several issues on the setup and structure of your board, such as the size of the board, breakdown of membership, roles and responsibilities, practices, communication, and where materials are archived.


Effective, efficient meetings are critical to the success of your board: Efficient meetings let your members know that you value your time, and effective meetings – where they play a real, active, role – let them know that their involvement is worthwhile. Think through the frequency of meetings, agendas, length, location(s), how far in advance information is provided, and how you’ll document what was discussed.

 I hope you find these quality standards helpful; let us know in the comments below! 

Brett Pawlowski is Executive Vice President of NC3T, the National Center for College and Career Transitions (www.nc3t.com). NC3T provides planning, coaching, technical assistance and tools to help community-based leadership teams plan and implement their college-career pathway systems and strengthen employer connections with education.

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