Create a communications advisory board

Whatever the size of your nonprofit or foundation, consider creating an outside advisory board to advise you on your communications.

Some charities have a standing communications board committee, or make communications part of the responsibility either of a standing committee that has other roles as well, or of the entire board.

Whatever the communications role of the board or its committees, an advisory group of outsiders can give you some needed perspective about how to improve the way you are telling your story.

In choosing advisory board members, look for people who understand communications and marketing, who know the community, and who you trust to be candid with you, brutally honest if needed, and who will not simply try to use their service on the advisory board to sell you their own services.

You might consider people who work for a marketing and communications firm, or in the marketing and communications department of a local corporation, foundation or nonprofits; or teach communications at a local college, university or community college; or work at a local newspaper or television station.

Treat the members of your advisory board the same way you would treat your own donors or board of directors. Build relationships with them. Get to know them. Help them know you and your organization.

Meet as often as you need to. Once every month or two would not be too much to ask. And be respectful of the advisory board members’ time.

You might spend the first session or two on general orientation about your overall communications strategy, materials and needs.

And each time you meet, have a specific agenda and goals for what you want to accomplish — from broad strategic issues to specific tactics and immediate needs.

Working with an advisory board can help you improve your communications and engage your target audiences with a more effective message.

Want help?

Philanthropy North Carolina is a consulting practice that provides writing and strategic communications support for nonprofits, foundations, colleges and universities, and others working for social good.

To find out more about hiring Philanthropy North Carolina to work with your organization to improve your communications, contact Todd Cohen at 919.272.2051 or

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