What's the difference between "advisory" and "emeritus?"
Dear Governance Matters,
Our board is currently considering establishing an Advisory Council and/or emeritus position. Is there anything redundant or prohibitive about having both an Emeritus Board Position and an Advisory Council?
Some information I have gives me the impression of redundancy but other information tends toward having both if you have members, former members and even prospective members that fit the criteria.
For us, an Advisory Council would involve people whose skills and expertise lend themselves to our work but who do not have high fundraising potential and/or the time to attend all board meetings.
The emeritus position came up because of the long history one former board member has with the program and her tie to the community.
Thank you for clarifying these opportunities.
Your instinct is spot on! Nonprofits are able to establish committees and task forces as needed. Often, the more "usual" committees are mentioned in the bylaws. Check your bylaws first, but I'd be surprised if they disallowed new board-designated committees.
That said, your understanding of an advisory group is right. So, too, is your plan to call it an "Advisory Council" or a "Council of Advisors." If you use the word "board," the group can be confused with the legal entity, your Board of Directors (or trustees).
It is very important to have a "job description" or "statement of purpose" for the advisory group. The job description should be included in whatever document describes your policies -- but NOT in your bylaws. In addition to a description of the group's purpose and/or who might be considered for membership, include a list of what is expected of council members and how the organization will oversee/manage the group, e.g. "meeting once a year ....headed by the Chairman of the Board.....to inform and update......etc."
As always, the creation of any new group/committee should be voted on by the board members.
For the Advisory Council to succeed, its role must clearly differ from the board's responsibilities. Make sure that expectations are clearly laid out. Will members be expected to fundraise? Act as a spokesperson or advocate? Provide advice or pro bono services?
"Emeritus" is an honorary title often given to past board chairs or the founder. It is used very sparingly, but effectively. There is no redundancy or prohibition in having both an emeritus position and an advisory council. The two do not overlap in any way.
Emeritus positions need less "managing" but, again, have a clear policy about what the title involves. Certainly, an emeritus board member would be included in appropriate events, receive newsletters, be recognized on the stationery, etc. And, I'm sure a lunch with the Board Chair and/or the Executive Director would be most appreciated!
But an emeritus title confers no responsibility or authority.
Hope this helps!
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