Set up a board orientation
Dear Ask the Experts,
I am on the Board of Directors of a California nonprofit and I am chair of our Board Governance committee. I'd like to establish a short (1 to1 ½ hour) orientation for new board members. We haven't done this before but rather that "re-inventing the wheel," I wonder if you have a format that could be used for this purpose.
I am very impressed with your website and will be referring to it frequently over the term of my office. Thank you so much!
I am so glad that you will be introducing a board orientation for new board members! This is SO important, and there are many organizations that still do not do it! Good for you!
Board member orientation can be done in many ways, depending on such things as:
- How many new board members do you have?
- Were they all brought on at the same time (as one would be the case with term limits)?
- Are you going to be holding a retreat or have one-on-one training with each new board member?
- How much experience, if any, do the board members have in nonprofit governance?
The first question to ask at an orientation is "Why did you say 'yes' when you were asked to join?" This will give you and your committee an insight into just what motivates the board and help you understand what they expect from the organization. Knowing their expectations will help you keep the board members engaged and increase retention.
The second task is to make sure board members understand what your organization expects of them! Make a list and be honest about what you expect in terms of:
- time commitment
- money (give/get)
- pro bono services
- involvement with events
- attendance at meetings
- committee participation
Finally, make sure that all board members understand their fiscal responsibilities, and are able to read and understand financial reports. If they need training in the latter, be sure they get it, either in-house or through one of the many agencies and consultants who provide board training.
You can make the orientation more effective if you assign a mentor -- an experienced member of your board -- to new board members. For other ideas, check out the Board Leadership Project.
Editor, Ask the Experts