5 Questions to Consider Before Launching an Ancillary Board: Mindful Strategies for Sustainable Board Creation

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In October, we shared a post on Ancillary boards, exploring these tested models for capacity building and leadership development for your organization. If one struck a chord, perhaps it’s time to consider forming your own ancillary board. Before you jump in, consider these five questions as you look to form a new sustainable, successful ancillary board:

  1. Have you defined a clear purpose for the ancillary board?Align your purpose and goals! A succinct, one to two sentence purpose statement for this board is helpful in establishing purpose and attracting new members. Just as your organization has messaging and an “elevator pitch,” so should your ancillary board.
  2. Is the ancillary work something that the board of directors could or should accomplish through a board committee? If yes – STOP!  Congratulations – there’s no need to form the ancillary board. Engage your board members to help achieve this goal. You might already have the skills, insights and capacity you need.
  3. Have you identified your ancillary board leaders? Are your leaders staff members, board members or other volunteers? A designated “chair” or executive committee is necessary to guide the board, establish accountability and act as a board and staff liaison. Often, boards identify two co-chairs, and eventually stagger terms to provide stable coverage and knowledge sharing. They are also crucial to recruiting new members. Ensure that the shared expectations between this chair, staff leadership and board directors are clearly defined from the start.
  4. How will the board dissolve once a goal is reached? How will the board sustain itself? Many ancillary Boards, like Gala Boards, have a date tied purpose and can be disbanded once the primary mission is fulfilled. However, many, like Young Professionals Boards, do not. Developing a short and long term strategic plans and performance metrics, is essential for success.
  5. Are your staff involved?  If so, do they have the capacity? Managing and supporting ancillary boards can be a lot of work. Ensure that involved staff members are part of the conversation, have clear goals and have the time and resources required to support your new board. The management of the new ancillary board can also provide valuable leadership opportunities for the organization’s staff as well.

By considering these questions, any organization can create a solid foundation for an ancillary board, paving the way for a sustainable and successful board.

Has your organization recently formed an ancillary board?  Share your story with us in the comments.

Erin Pierson, Associate Consultant, Cause Strategy Partners

Erin Pierson is an Associate Consultant at Cause Strategy Partners. For the past four years, Erin worked at CECP, supporting their corporate social responsibility consulting programs. At Cause Strategy Partners, Erin is the program manager for the Fall 2018 NYC BoardLead round. She is a graduate student at NYU-Wagner, specializing in Social Impact, Innovation, and Investment, and holds a B.A. from Colgate University. Her cause areas are Arts Funding Equity and Paid Family Leave.

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