Exploring Ancillary Boards: Tested Models for Increased Leadership and Capacity


Let’s say you’re the Board Chair of a successful nonprofit organization. Consider these three common scenarios:

Scenario 1: Fundraising Fatigue

It’s time to start planning for next year’s gala.  While several board members have supported fundraising and planning in the past, many have expressed that the additional time commitment and fundraising asks are taxing year after year. Other board members have suggested that new voices and ideas might help drive ticket sales and donations in a younger demographic. What’s your next move?

Scenario 2: New Nominations

Over the next year, a third of your board members’ terms will expire, and you expect many may decide to retire from the board. Your nominating committee has identified a few leads, but many are casual friends of friends, or are unfamiliar with your organization and the work that you do. You feel you need a new way to identify and coach potential board members.

Scenario 3: Graceful Growth

After completing a new three-year strategic plan, your organization is committed to venturing into a new program area. While you are confident that your staff members have the skills required to take on this new service, the pressure is high to stick the landing as the new program is developed and introduced. A trusted group of advisors could be a useful sounding board.

All three scenarios represent opportunities that can be addressed with ancillary boards. Ancillary boards play a key role in growing nonprofits, providing valuable insights, skill sets, connections and resources to tackle special projects and advise the organization.

Historically, ancillary boards were known first as “auxiliary boards,” and often provided a way for the wives of board directors to support their organizations. “Ladies Auxiliaries” planned fundraisers and volunteered for the organization that were governed by the spouses. Times have certainly changed since then! Over the years, the term “auxiliary board” expanded to include a wide variety of support boards, fulfilling many vital fundraising and planning roles that the board of directors may not have the capacity or skills to master.

As the scope of these boards has evolved beyond auxiliary, I believe the term “ancillary” – expressing a more integral commitment to the core mission of an organization – better captures the spirit of these boards.  Let’s explore the terms a bit: by definition, an “auxiliary” lends a form of “support on reserve,” whereas an “ancillary” provides a concentrated and necessary role in the workings of a system or organization. As these boards have become more savvy and strategic, they have emerged as an indispensable tool for turning good organizations into great ones.

Ancillary boards do what directors sometimes cannot; through leveraging their specific skills, networks or passions, they support the organization in a limited, focused way. Ancillary boards come in all shapes and sizes and can be a temporary addition to the organization or a long-term venture.

Five common types of auxiliary boards include:

  • The Young Professionals: Composed of individuals who are passionate about the organization, earlier in their careers and may not yet have the giving power or connections required for full board service. Young Professionals Boards, or Junior Boards as they are sometimes called, often assist in fundraising and outreach and may plan their own events. Do you feel like your board of directors needs a pipeline of next generation leaders like in Scenario 2? The Young Professionals Board is a great way to cultivate future board members and spread the word about your organization.
  • The Regional Leaders: How do large national or international organizations maintain strong connections to the local communities they serve? These boards, often tied to a regional office of an organization, are the local ambassadors for the board of directors, advocating and fundraising in ways that are location-specific. Typically, only national and global organizations utilize these boards, but smaller organizations can still find value in engaging local influencers to provide on the ground insights.
  • The Power-Fundraisers: Fundraising Boards are formed to achieve a fundraising goal or host an event, such as a gala, a membership drive or a 5K race. They add networking capacity and occasional skills-based support and can help balance some of the responsibilities of planning a large-scale fundraiser, like in the “Fundraising Fatigue” example above.
  • The Advisory Council: Advisory Boards are often composed of content experts, and exist in the for-profit space as well. Advisories are convened to provide support, insights and talent on the substantive area of work an organization engages in. These councils leverage their deep experience and connections to help the organization grow in an efficient and effective way and may also lend prestige or legitimacy to a new venture by a nonprofit. Building an Advisory Council is the perfect option for Scenario 3.
  • The Beneficiaries Circle: Composed of community leaders, key stakeholders and representatives of the population that the organization serves, a beneficiaries circle provides diverse opinions and insights to the directors and organization. These groups can provide information that your staff might not have, and help direct program growth through uncovering new problems, challenges and issues as they turn up. The circle also strengthens your relationship with your constituents, positioning your organization as an informed, engaged and receptive change-maker in the community.

Could one of these ancillary boards be the key to unlocking greater impact for your organization? If so, look out for our follow up piece, “5 Questions to Consider Before Launching an Ancillary Board: Mindful Strategies for Sustainable Board Creation.”


By: Erin Pierson, Graduate Intern

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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