Creating a Programs/Constituents Advisory Board

An advisory board dedicated to developing inclusive programs and diverse constituencies may be useful. However, in many organizations, staff members feel a great deal of ownership regarding the design and implementation of programs. As such, they often resist outside input regarding their programs and may be reluctant to create an advisory board for this reason. Yet programming is the core work of organizations and is a useful arena in which to receive input.

Remember, an advisory board does just that: it advises.  Advisors should understand that their role is to provide input, not to make decisions for an organization. If the advisory board believes that their role is to make decisions, those who serve on the advisory board may end up being very disappointed when their recommendations do not lead immediately to programmatic changes. This type of misunderstanding can damage an organization's reputation within communities of color. Therefore, it's important that organizations communicate to advisors that they value the thoughts and feedback of their advisors while emphasizing that advisors will not be decision makers for the organization.

If you decide to create an advisory board to get input on how to create more inclusive programs and diverse constituents, the following suggestions can guide you in getting the advice you need from this group:

  • Clarify the purpose of the advisory board before it is assembled and ensure that all members have the purpose in writing before they agree to serve.
  • Decide who will chair the advisory board. It may be appropriate for a board member to serve as chair so that there is an official liaison between the advisory board and the board of directors.
  • Clarify expectations of advisory board members regarding the number of meetings and work outside of meetings.
  • In most cases, a majority of inclusiveness advisory board members should be people of color. However, there are many white people who have experience that may be useful to you regarding inclusive programs, so do not exclude those individuals simply because of their race.
  • Ask people to serve who have experience and expertise in areas related to your organization's programs; do not tokenize people of color by asking them to serve just because of their race or ethnicity. 


Overview: Programs and Constituents 

Defining Your Target Population 

Tracking and Evaluating How Constituents Use Your Programs

Approaches to Program Design 

Examples of Impact of Inclusiveness on Program Effectiveness  

Creating More Inclusive Programs and More Diverse Constituents 

    Developing Partnerships with Others Who Have Cultural Competence in Your Field 

     Asking Constituents for Suggestions 

     Creating a Programs/Constituents Advisory Board 

     Finding a Mentor