How to Create an Alumni Advisory Board
Creating a corporate alumni advisory board can add value to your program and offer a chance for highly engaged members to take on some responsibility and ownership of their network. However, taking some time to design the program that makes it mutually beneficial is a worthwhile endeavor.
4 Ways to Build a Corporate Alumni Advisory Board
After establishing a corporate alumni network, community managers often wonder how they can evolve their program and build upon the foundation they’ve established. One way to continue providing beneficial resources to alumni and employees is to develop an alumni advisory board. This board can act as a feedback group to the organization, they can create events, aid with strategy and direction of the program, and be seen as leaders within the community.
While these committees can undoubtedly add value to a program, knowing when and how to develop one can be tough. Launching with an advisory board can be done, but it is often something added in after a few years of tried-and-true growth and engagement. Here are a few things to consider when beginning your strategy.
1. Define the Reasons for Establishing an Alumni Advisory Board
Reflecting on what you’re looking to gain by adding additional voices to the program will help determine a few things:
- How big should the board be
- How do you source for board members
- How long will they serve
- What defines the board’s success
- How involved are they in the overall program management
- How often do they meet by themselves and/or with the organization
Great programs are open to input and take subsequent action based on alumni and employee feedback from surveys. However, convening a group of individuals without a specific or intentional purpose can derail your program’s overarching goals. Consider the areas that you need help with and be prepared for honest feedback. Start by conducting a review of the program (and possibly an alumni survey) to identify gaps and areas you want to change and/or strengthen, which can start as a foundation for the board. From there, your board can work together to identify and build upon creative ideas that better serve the needs of your alumni community.
Example: If you have a gap in events for senior leaders. Your alumni advisory board can be tasked with assembling a marquis event each year for senior leaders.
2. Alumni Board Member Roles and Expectations
Prior to committing to serving a term, board members should have a clear understanding of what their roles and responsibilities will be. This is essential to having involved and dedicated board members. As voluntary (but crucial) participants, potential board members will want to know approximately how much time they should plan on devoting to the advisory board. At the same time, this will help ensure no time is wasted considering individuals whose schedules don’t have room for this endeavor. We suggest thinking about this in 1-2 yearlong increments, depending on the role. This allows new voices to cycle in and out of the board.
Example: Board Chair, Board Assistant Chair, Events Lead, etc.
3. Diversify Your Alumni Advisory Board
All voices should be valued, and be sure to convene a group of individuals from a wide variety of backgrounds. A few factors to consider are seniority, areas of experience, gender, tenure, race, and ethnicity. Assembling a group of individuals that are representative of your userbase is imperative; this will help amplify the voices within your community that may be unintentionally overlooked. In the true form of giving power to the people, think about assembling the board with elected positions and the committees they could run, if it’s a larger board.
Example: Work with your internal DEI Business Resource Group to have the board member take part in meetings, conversations, or events.
4. Size of the Committee
While you want to create a committee that is representative of your user base, the overall size of the committee should start relatively small with a few key voices to avoid having “too many cooks in the kitchen.” Aim to strike a balance between varying perspectives while keeping in mind that opening too broadly has a risk of slowing productivity due to conflicting viewpoints. A good starting advisory board should consist of roughly three to five members. As the alumni program grows, so can the size of the alumni board – it's better to add positions over time than to remove them as it sends a stronger signal.
An advisory board enables champions of the community to evolve the program and ensure alumni and employees are getting the most out of it. While advisory boards can be a large and time-intensive undertaking, the corporate alumni networks that have successfully launched these programs with intentionality and dedication are seeing a multitude of benefits. With the proper time allocation and strategic planning, an advisory board could be an excellent addition to your community.