Are you ready to take your Blessings in a Backpack program to the next level?

In the January 2018 issue of Blessings Broadcast, the idea of creating a formal local Program
Advisory Board
to support growth, sustainability and succession planning of the program in your community was introduced. The Effingham, Ill. Blessings in a Backpack program was profiled to demonstrate how a strong local Advisory Board can ensure the sustainability of a program beyond the leadership of its founder(s).

The PC Toolkit contains templates which can serve as a starting point in developing the structure for your local Advisory Board. If you’re ready to consider implementing a local Advisory Board, please contact Susan Kane, chief program officer, who can arrange additional support from the National Office.

In this second article, you will find additional background and best practices for the concepts, tools and templates which were presented in Part 1.

What’s the difference between a Board of Directors and Advisory Board?

The Board of Directors is a legal, governing body required by the state in which the organization was incorporated. Board of Directors members are fiduciaries who steer the organization towards a sustainable future by adopting sound, ethical, and legal governance and financial management policies, as well as by making sure the nonprofit has adequate resources to advance its mission.1

The Board of Directors also provides strategic direction. In contrast, an Advisory Board does not have formal legal responsibilities. It is formed to give advice and support including driving local impact, brand awareness, and fundraising. Advisory Boards carry out the strategic plan of the organization as it relates to their local market or programs.

Blessings in a Backpack has a National Board of Directors that assumes the legal responsibilities of the organization and sets overall strategic direction.

Identifying needed committees

Though needs may vary, local Advisory Boards often include the following:

• Executive Committee—Typically comprised of a Chair, Vice President, VP Finance, and Secretary. May have the authority to act on behalf of the Advisory Board in between meetings if the Operating Principles and Practices permit.

• Fundraising Committee–Leads the Advisory Board’s fundraising strategy including but not limited to: implementation of key fundraising activities; ensuring a diversified funding base; establishing sponsorship packages; and communicating benefits to other Committees that would need to fulfill sponsor packages

• Special Events Committee–Plans special events which may include a local “signature” event

• Marketing/PR/Social Media Committee–Creates and is responsible for content on social media pages/webpage; develops PR contacts; may handle all local Advisory Board correspondence

• Finance Committee—Responsible for monitoring and communicating to the local Advisory Board about the programs’ overall financial health including overseeing the local budget and financial reports.

• Nominating/Recruiting Committee—Recruits new members; holds interviews; communicates member commitments; arranges new member information sessions; welcome/networking events and onboarding

Pros and cons of a defined “give or get” and in-kind contributions

A “give or get” policy, including “dues” as included in the Operating Principles and Practices template, defines that amount that members will either contribute personally or raise through their network connections. The highest performing boards have “give or get” policies. Larger organization with a highly experienced, business-oriented board would consider this appropriate. However, for smaller, grassroots boards, a give or get policy may alienate some board members if they feel it is forced upon them.2

Although the National Office recommends an established “give or get” or payment of membership dues to provide a base of financial support for local program operations, the policy has to be agreed upon by the local Advisory Board members themselves. Be aware that some grant applications ask what percentage of Board members donate: it is helpful to be able to respond it is a 100% contribution rate. Give or get proceeds can be used to help pay for event materials, marketing collateral, meeting refreshments and can be granted back to local programs to help feed more children.

Term limit considerations

• Established term limits provide the following benefits:Avoids board member burnout. Being a dedicated Advisory Board member is hard work! Even the most dedicated Advisory Board members are likely to fatigue. As Advisory Board members “term out,” they can continue to be passionate ambassadors to the program in the local community.

• Brings in fresh ideas and perspectives. By bringing in new recruits to fill open positions, new ideas and connections will result.

• Allows gracious retirement of noncontributing board members. Inevitably, there will be Advisory Board members who are not meeting expectations. Though nonperforming Advisory Board members can be removed as provided in the Operating Guidelines and Principles, term limits can be helpful at times to allow nonperforming board members to exit gracefully.

The National Office recommends a limit of two three-year terms with a minimum of a one-year year break in service before a former board member can rejoin the board.

Tips for recruiting new local Advisory Board members

Blessings in a Backpack’s Managing Director for Southwest Florida (SWFL), Cecilia St. Arnold, shared the following advice:

“When adding new local Advisory Board members, strategically identify local chapter needs such as development, public relations or geographic expansion. Then recruit members who are a good fit for those needs. For example, we are expanding both our donor base and program reach beyond Ft. Myers into Naples. We added a new board member who lives in Naples and is the CFO of one of the largest companies in that city. He is also active on many causes and will open new doors for BIB SWFL. We also added someone who has marketing and public relations expertise to our board.

“Let everyone you know you are recruiting. Ask for introductions based on the job description for the Advisory Board position. Building a diversified Advisory Board in terms of skill set and level that a person serves in their corporation should be a consideration. Reach out to local law firms, investment firms, advertising/marketing agencies, retail/restaurants. Send a letter describing BIB’s missions, the number of children served vs. those in need. Be sure to state the time commitment and give/get/fundraising goals upfront. Don’t forget to let your local school principal and/or superintendent know too, as they may have recommendations.”

Lessons learned from existing BIB Advisory Boards

More from Cecilia St. Arnold, SWFL managing director:

• Bring the Advisory Board together before the school year starts for a day retreat or extended board meeting. This is the time to create or update the strategic plan for the local chapter for the upcoming year, ensuring it is consistent with the National Office priorities. The plan should include all fundraising goals, growth goals and donor development.

• Each board member should have a clear understanding of their roles on the board. A good way is to put them in separate committees where they serve for at least one year. (The National Office recommends committee terms of two years). Each committee has specified goals and monthly meetings.

• Since many of our original Advisory Board members will be retiring and rolling off our board, our new board members are assigned mentors from the original board members and shadow them on different committees.

• Watch out for “resume fillers” who want to add their board involvement to their professional accomplishments but aren’t truly committed to supporting the mission. It’s always best to have someone who is truly passionate about feeding hungry children.

• We use a matrix (can we add a link to the matrix and/or add to the PC Toolkit?) to keep track of all Advisory Board members’ activities for the fiscal year. At the end of year, it helps us see who really has been a great collaborator and contributor versus someone who has not met expectations. The reasons may vary from being brought in but not on-boarded correctly to personal issues or simply not being a good fit.

“We had an issue last year and sent a nice letter to a board member who wasn’t working out, thanking them for their service and asking them to stay involved in other capacities with BIB. Not only were they relieved, they told me it made it easy for a graceful exit without any negativity.”

“As I always tell my Advisory Board members, they are all contributors to the success of how many children we feed as a Chapter. Making sure that each and every Advisory Board member is contributing is key.”

Support being developed by the National Office

In addition to the tools and templates which are currently available on the PC Toolkit to support creation of a local Advisory Board, BIB’s National Office is working on expanding support for the sustainability of local programs through Committees and Councils for programs that aren’t ready for a local Advisory Board. An array of tools, guidelines and recommendations based on program size and other factors are under development. Our target date for delivery is late summer 2018.

Should you be interested in next steps for Advisory Board development, please contact Chief Program Officer Susan Kane who will coordinate resources available within BIB to best meet your needs.