What is an Advisory Council? (Overview, Roles, and Responsibilities)

  • By: OnBoard Meetings
  • July 19, 2022
Advisory Council
Reading Time: 4 minutes

Advisory councils provide specific guidance and oversight for boards of directors. We examine their responsibilities and how they're best implemented.

Most boards consist of a diverse group of highly skilled professionals who leverage their expertise to help their organizations achieve their goals. However, a board might not always contain all the needed skill sets necessary to govern effectively. 

That’s where an advisory council comes in. Put simply, an advisory board provides strategic guidance to help the board make informed decisions. Oftentimes, an advisory council works with boards to optimize board management. Read on to discover the roles and responsibilities of an advisory council. 

What is an Advisory Council?

An advisory council consists of a group of outside advisors who work alongside a board of directors to enhance board governance. Essentially, an advisory council provides advice, but doesn’t engage in decision-making.

Organizations strive to create a diverse board with skilled members, but most boards inevitably require guidance from expert outsiders who possess unique skills. 

An advisory council fills the skill gap by augmenting the board’s knowledge, strategic thinking, and understanding. The council enables the main board to challenge assumptions, especially on technical matters. 

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Advisory Council Responsibilities

The advisory council’s responsibilities depend upon the organization’s specific needs, but typically include the following components. 

1. Provide Specialized Information, Skills, and Experience

The advisory council provides tailored advice that focuses on specific areas, such as technology, marketing, etc. Experienced advisory council members provide technical advice and critical thinking in areas beyond the board members’ typical fields of expertise. 

The council provides recommendations, but it’s up to the board of directors to decide on their appropriateness. 

2. Provide Guidance and Oversight

Advisory councils provide the board with the latest solutions, trending techniques, and knowledge so the organization stays competitive in its industry. 

This could mean helping the company tailor its services in a way that attracts a new segment of customers. 

In other words, the council gives the staff and board a fresh perspective on programmatic issues. 

3. Help the Organization Run Successful Projects

An advisory council can help an organization execute a project from launch to completion. It might include drafting project designs, developing competent teams, creating budgets, and establishing the roles of a project’s stakeholders. 

Additionally, an advisory council can help the board evaluate risks and plan proactively to enhance preparedness and resilience in the project. If risks do occur, the organization will be well-positioned to tackle them accordingly. 

The council also helps the board manage projects to ensure progress and key deadlines are met. That way, the organization can make informed decisions and ensure the project remains on track with predetermined goals. 

4. Promote the Organization in the Community

An advisory council can act as the organization’s advocate in the community it serves. Leveraging their expertise and industry network, council members can help an organization connect to a greater constituency. 

For example, overseas companies may appoint a country-specific advisory council to provide in-market expertise and shed light on the local business and political culture. 

Alternatively, some advisory councils support business development by making new introductions and acting on the organization’s behalf at social functions and industry events.

Advisory Council Tools

Most boards develop structures for advisory councils, who then conduct separate meetings. These meetings should be effective, useful, and productive. One of the best ways your advisory council can simplify the process involves using board management software (board portal). 

Board management software provides a central hub to help advisory councils to hold effective meetings. It allows council members to securely store, share, and access confidential documents from the cloud. 

Board portals offer powerful features to streamline advisory council communications, simplify document management, and enable members to vote on decisions quickly. 

Here are 3 ways board management software improves advisory council effectiveness.

1. Advanced security for seamless advisory council management

With increased digitization, security has become a major concern for organizations. However, powerful board management software like OnBoard allows you to: 

  • Monitor members’ login activities
  • Control access using passwords
  • Include watermarks on documents

A secure board portal also shows you who accesses a document and all version history.

2. Improved collaboration among council members

Board management software enables council members to access all documents from the cloud, enabling hybrid and remote meetings. Members can communicate on the platform using powerful live chat and messaging tools.

3. Increased flexibility and productivity

Members can access information and documents at any time and from anywhere. Board portals allow you (and other members) to work on your own schedule without worrying about missing out on critical information. 

Powerful features of board portals include: 

  • Collaboration tools: Board portals leverage powerful features to enable connection between advisory council members. For example, OnBoard includes a Zoom integration, so members can easily conduct remote video meetings. 
  • Secure document sharing (and document building tools): Creating and sharing crucial documents is easy if you use a board portal. Most come with drag-and-drop minutes and agenda builders to seamlessly create and share the documents within the platform. Members can access these files from anywhere and at any time. 
  • Powerful search algorithms to easily access important data. Members can access files hassle-free and from the cloud. 

Getting Started with OnBoard

An advisory council provides the missing skill set for your organization’s governing board. It supports the board through strategic thinking and specialized expertise to help the organization achieve its goals. While the council provides critical insights, they play no role in governance. 

Advisory councils conduct their own meetings, which should be effective for maximum productivity. OnBoard drives intelligence and collaboration to help you take your meetings to the next level. Schedule your free trial today to get started with OnBoard. 

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About The Author

OnBoard Meetings
OnBoard Meetings
At OnBoard, we believe board meetings should be informed, effective, and uncomplicated. That’s why we give boards and leadership teams an elegant solution that simplifies governance. With customers in higher education, nonprofit, health care systems, government, and corporate enterprise business, OnBoard is the leading board management provider.