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How to Cultivate a Successful Advisory Council

March 26, 2013 in Making a Difference


  • A volunteer Advisory Council can lead your organization.
  • Members can support the Project Director, advocate for recruitment and community awareness, and more.


Welcome to our guest blogger, Patty Dreiman from the Knox Co. RSVP, Generations AAA, Indiana. Patty answered the Call for What’s Working issued by the Aging Network’s Volunteer Collaborative in the spring of 2012, and her project was honored for its success. To learn more, download the Replication Guide.

At Knox County RSVP, a Senior Corps project for volunteers age 55+, the volunteer Advisory Council is the leadership.

And Knox County RSVP is known for the organizational capacity of the Advisory Council to implement its mission: To connect senior individuals, their skills and talents with community needs through volunteer services.

Advisory Council membership represents a cross section of the entire county, with members who represent various ages, occupations, income levels and knowledge having interests and skills to help the project achieve its goals and objectives.

We at Knox County RSVP, like many others, have found that successful volunteer programs rely on the ability to attract and retain dedicated volunteers. This includes Advisory Council members who are also station supervisors and program coordinators. Those recruited for our RSVP Advisory Council serve as representatives to all RSVP volunteers.

In this role, the Council assumes a number of key responsibilities. Council members do the following:

  • Advocate for recruitment and community awareness, for RSVP and its sponsor.
  • Provide support to the Project Director.
  • Give recommendations for local project changes.
  • Build constructive relationships with community agencies.
  • Assist the Leadership Committee with by-laws.
  • Plan and implement basic local policies.
  • Provide monthly meeting agendas and minutes.

As the director, I see that the proper guidelines are in place, and then I let the Council members do their job. The worst possible scenario for a Senior Corps program is to have a stagnant council.  Members must feel comfortable enough to offer suggestions, give ideas, and ask questions. If all they do is attend meetings and listen to a director telling them what to do, the program will not be successful.

Senior volunteer programs such as RSVP provide structured opportunities that benefit participants as well as the community. Knox County RSVP uses evaluation forms following each program or event to determine how the volunteers benefited from their volunteer experience. The summaries are included in the annual report, given to each Council member at the April meeting. The questionnaire measures overall satisfaction of volunteering on a scale of one to five, with specific variables, and satisfaction of the program or station where they donated their services.

So how do you begin to cultivate a successful Advisory Council?  Here are a few starters:

  1. Start small with a core group and establish purpose and guidelines.
  2. Allow the Leadership Committee to conduct the monthly meetings.
  3. Provide all Council members with detailed monthly and annually statistical reports.
  4. Continually thank the members with innovative goodies (Band-Aids – thanks for sticking with us, light bulb, you keep us bright and shining, banana – you’re the top banana).

Advisory Council members are more likely to remain active members when they are

  • Encouraged to bring ideas forward,
  • Listened to,
  • Given clear expectations,
  • Provided meaningful activities with a well-balanced service load, and
  • Shown genuine respect and recognition..

At Knox County RSVP, our Advisory Council members help us thrive, not only for today, but where we hope to be tomorrow.

To learn more, download the project’s Replication Guide. Or share your ideas, thoughts, or questions in the Comments, below.

To find more ideas for your program, scroll through other Making a Difference posts.

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  1. Bonnie Worth says:

    Thank you for this interesting blog post. I would like to download the project’s Replication Guide, but do not know the login and password to be able to do so.

    • Avatar of Patricia Patricia says:

      In order to access replication guides and all online library resources, all must register with the website. It’s a very simple registration form, just a few questions!


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