Search within:

Creating and Maintaining Thriving Alumni Advisory Boards: A Guide for Academic Leaders

This guide, adapted from the Ohio University Alumni Association's alumni advisory board best practices, empowers academic leaders to establish and nurture effective alumni advisory boards. By following these guidelines, a valuable resource that strengthens the connection to the alumni community can be cultivated at the Department, College, and University levels. 

All examples cited below are from the Physical Therapy Alumni Board within the School of Rehabilitation and Communication Sciences, College of Health Sciences and Professions at Ohio University. 

OUAA circle logo with paw print.

Name and Affiliation

Based on the affiliation of the board, create a logical name that represents a clear understanding of the makeup of the board. Identify the board affiliation within the university and respective college. (Department, College, University)

  • Example: Physical Therapy Alumni Board of Directors (Alumni Board) in the Division of Physical Therapy, School of Rehabilitation and Communication Sciences, College of Health Sciences and Professions at Ohio University, hereafter referred to as the Alumni Board.


Clearly define the purpose and goals of the advisory board. Understand how the board aligns with the mission and vision of the College and align that purpose to the strategic objectives of your college, school, or department. Be specific. 

  • Example: To be ambassadors of Ohio University Physical Therapy by strengthening connections between current students, prospective students, alumni, community and corporate partners.


Advocate for the college within the community and specific industries, promoting its achievements, programs, and contributions. Along with industry recognition, alumni boards often seek to…

  • Bolster Institutional Reputation: Serve as ambassadors, advocating for the department and university, enhancing public perception, and attracting valuable partnerships. 
  • Enhance Student Recruitment & Experience: Provide insights into industry trends, advise on curriculum development, and mentor current students, enriching the overall student experience. 
  • Elevate Alumni Development: Organize professional development workshops, networking events, and mentorship programs, fostering lifelong learning and career advancement for alumni. Membership Criteria:


Determine the criteria for selecting board members. Decide whether membership is open to external stakeholders and faculty, or only alumni from the program/university.

  • Example: Membership on the Alumni Board is open to all alumni of the Division of Physical Therapy at Ohio University.

Composition and Term Limits

Consider the optimal size of the advisory board. Ensure diverse representation across disciplines, industries, and demographics. Keep in mind that more board members mean more logistical considerations. 

  • Example: A select group of approximately 20-25 members with the responsibilities and opportunities listed. The appointment will be for a 3-year term with staggered membership.

Roles and Responsibilities

Define the roles and responsibilities of advisory board members. Clarify expectations regarding attendance, participation, and contributions. Be very specific and clearly articulate whether the board has a philanthropic element to participation.


  • Opportunity to define and serve on at least one standing committee. Potential task forces are: Alumni Relations, Professional Development and Networking, Fund Raising, and Community Service.
  • Identify, recruit and involve other alumni as volunteers. This includes assisting with nominating alumni for the Physical Therapy Alumni Board of Directors.
  • Commit to a leadership level minimum financial gift of $1,000 payable over the term of service to one of the Division of Physical Therapy Foundation Accounts. 
  • Nominate Physical Therapy Alumni for Alumni Awards
  • Assist the Division of PT in developing internship/careers opportunities for Ohio University Physical Therapy students/graduates through your personal contacts with corporations or entities.
  • Support alumni activities within your specific region.
  • Identify individuals, corporations, and foundations that have the potential for a major gift to the Division of Physical Therapy.


Determine the frequency and format of advisory board meetings. Decide whether meetings will be held in person, virtually, or a combination. Annual meetings should be established for reporting purposes, as well as strategic and intentional decision making, such as the election of officers or new members.

  • Example: The annual meeting shall be held in Athens in either the spring or fall. Additional meetings may be called by the Alumni Board.  It is the intent that notice of the date, time, and place of the meeting shall be given to the members at least sixty (60) days prior to the meeting.

Agendas and Minutes

Establish a process for creating meeting agendas and distributing minutes. Ensure that discussions and decisions are well-documented for future reference. Carefully consider who will take minutes, and what support from university staff will be needed. 

Additionally, anticipate where meetings will take place. Who will reserve rooms, and where will board members park. Will hotel rooms be needed? Is food a consideration. Carefully weigh your options. 

Conflicts of Interest

Ensure compliance with any legal or ethical considerations related to advisory boards. Clarify any conflict-of-interest policies and disclosure requirements. Consider having each board member sign an annual COI form. 

Additional Considerations

  • Logistics & Management: The department will be responsible for organizing meetings, events, and communication with board members. Plan meticulously and consider financial implications.
  • Relationship Management: Nurturing strong relationships with board members is crucial for their continued engagement and support. Determine the level of collaboration with the College's administration and faculty. 
  • Strategic Communication: Utilize University Communications and Marketing resources to showcase board activities and achievements, amplifying their impact. Also consider communication channels between board members. Contemplate using online platforms for discussions and document sharing.
  • Recognition: Determine how the advisory board's activities will be promoted and recognized within the College and externally. Consider a dedicated landing page on your college website to promote the advisory board members and their service to OHIO. 
  • Budget and Funding: Establish a budget for the advisory board's activities. Carefully consider the budget when deciding on how many in-person meetings will be held each year. Explore potential sources of funding and support.

University Advancement Support

Ohio University Alumni Association (OUAA) and the Major Giving (MG) Teams

  • OUAA can provide a list of existing boards at OHIO.
  • The MG team can recommend board members.
  • OUAA can provide an example of how OHIO boards operate (OUAA board, department boards, etc.). Things like charters, officers, best practices, etc.
  • OUAA can show examples of the ways alumni can plug in and serve.
  • MG and OUAA can share stories of successful and unsuccessful boards.
  • OUAA can help these boards utilize the Bobcat Network to:
    • Share department news with alumni, advertise events
    • Find other alumni who have raised their hand and want to be involved
    • Connect with current students who have raised their hand and want mentoring
    • Use it as a digital dashboard to hold files and photos, communicate with each other