An advisory council can add great value to an organisation. It can bring together various stakeholder groups to advise the board on the big policy and strategy issues.
These councils are becoming more common as boards become smaller and can no longer accommodate representatives from the different locations, user groups and professions in voluntary organisations.
When well managed, they provide a place for scrutinising policy and plans. They bring different perspectives into the organisation and alert the board to sensitive issues. When meetings are not well planned or prepared, they can quickly become a source of discontent.
Good communication between the board and its advisory council is essential. It's best to have some cross-membership between the board and its council. Generally, the two should be chaired by different people, who can establish and maintain open and trusting personal relationships.
Before establishing a council or reinvigorating an existing one, make sure it can be given sufficient attention by management and board. If meetings are sufficiently well planned and resourced, everyone can add wisdom, insight and judgement.