With all the excitement around Google+ and the circles feature it reminded me of the circle strategy being used by the social sector as a way to manage advocates and advisers.  So often, large advisory boards or councils are created as a place to keep those who are important, influential, philanthropic towards ones cause but may not be ready, willing, able to serve on the board.  As the names and influence grow these councils can become challenging to steer, especially when there was dissension about organizational strategies.  I have watched founders and key supporters on advisory councils that were inactive suddenly leap into action to ‘save’ an organization from a decision they deemed harmful or inappropriate.  This can cause a lot of anxiety and diplomacy for a Board Chair and CEO.

One way to address the adviser role is to create circles.  For example, there might be President’s Circle.  Individuals the President can call upon to seek advice and council.  Communication and engagement does not need to be scheduled but if the request for input is sincere and meaningful, the advisers stay connected.  Usually this is a group that requires a meaningful touches and communication but may not meet as a formal body.  Board Chair Circle, Development Circle, Marketing Circle, Volunteer Circle, Community Cirles are some common examples.  Appropriate staff or board leadership can facilitate these circles.  It also provides a nice vehicle to connect to advocates who have specific talents and are willing to be a resource for the cause.

What circles are you formally or informally managing?

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