Insights, News

Strategic Partnerships: Building Advisory Boards for Success

Jun 14, 2022

San Francisco Bay Area

What we do 

Once a proven program is selected in partnership with our Selection Advisory Council, GreenLight is committed to helping reach the local goals we’ve set together. Our work doesn’t stop there, we are embedded into the local ecosystem, reaching impact quickly, and dedicated to long-term sustainability.

One way GreenLight galvanizes community support is by collaborating with portfolio organizations to establish advisory boards. These boards are composed of community leaders, including GreenLight Executive Directors, who partner with the local portfolio leader to build capacity and scale their impact locally. These boards provide support to the organization within the local market but are limited from providing organization-wide decisions and fiduciary duties (unlike national boards that hold fiduciary duties).

The advisory board traditionally focuses on four common themes of support and expectations (taken from advisory board agreements):

  1. Guidance & Support: advise local strategy for growth and sustainability
  2. Fundraising: secure financial resources to support growth
  3. Networking: act as external champions promoting the organization
  4. Participation: willingness to commit to advisory board meetings and implement individualized engagement plans guiding participation.

How we do it

When the time comes to create an advisory board, GreenLight advises and coaches organizations on how to create strong boards. Years of experience on boards across our sites have shown building local roots, networks, and partnerships only enhances the local presence of a portfolio organization, creating pathways for sustainability and scalability. We work with local leaders to identify potential members and make introductions, often recruiting the first several members. As a part of this process, GreenLight is always seeking to reflect the diversity of Bay Area communities. This goal extends to identifying a balanced mix of skills and experiences, such as cross-sector representation.

After programming is established and each organization clearly identifies needs based on measurable outcomes, GreenLight begins its outreach efforts to find members who meet the needs of the organization.

At the height of the pandemic, GreenLight Bay Area selected EveryoneOn and Food Connect to address critical issues exacerbated by COVID: the digital divide and food insecurity. These two organizations began programming in early 2021, shifting the landscape and providing essential needs to individuals and families across the region. They are both currently building out their advisory boards with GreenLight’s help.


GreenLight’s network runs deep, and identifying the right fit takes time. After engaging multiple candidates, Paige Reeve Uher, Chief Marketing Officer & Head of Distribution at Zeo Capital Advisors, LLC (who concurrently serves as a GreenLight Selection Advisory Council member) was identified as a possible nominee for the EveryoneOn board. Knowing Paige’s personal mission-driven interests in connecting underserved communities to affordable internet, computers, and training, EveryoneOn’s team was elated to welcome her as part of the inaugural cohort of advisors.

Food Connect

This process looked a little different for the Food Connect board development. The Food Connect Founder and Executive Director confided in GreenLight and Kyle Robertson, Co-founder and CEO of NarrativeDx, to assist with the strategic build-out of their National Board of Directors. Considering the virtual model of Food Connect, the organization requires minimal local advisory board presence but was in need of a robust build-out of their national board of directors.

Together, we implemented several foundational elements to build out the long-term programming preparing the organization for full-functioning board meetings, while simultaneously brainstorming who could be a value-add to the expansion and sustainability of the organization. In particular, identifying who could provide sound advice in areas related to food procurement, logistics, and delivery to help organizations fight hunger at a local level. This took several months to build, with many conversations (both individual and group) with prospective board members. Finally, after months of preparation and aligning priorities, Food Connect kicked off their full board meeting this year.

“GreenLight is an incredible partner for Food Connect. Their expertise in nonprofit governance and effectiveness has been instrumental in building a world-class board of directors.” – Kyle Robertson, Co-founder and CEO of NarrativeDx, Food Connect Board Chair

GreenLight Executive Directors take a seat on the advisory boards for a total of six years, remaining for one-two years beyond our active four-year grantmaking commitments. And of course, portfolio organizations are forever in the GreenLight Family, so we are always listening to and partnering with them well beyond our formal engagement has ended. We convene a diverse group of community stakeholders during our selection cycle and continue to bring together supporters to work with portfolio organizations on the ground to ensure a strong start and lasting impact.

We are so grateful for our community of leaders and change-makers and are deeply passionate about the continued support the community provides to the organizations helping to create opportunities for inclusive prosperity across the Bay Area and beyond.