Over the past few weeks, we have focused on recruiting board members to serve on your nonprofit or ministry board of directors. But, you might be wondering, “now that I have board members, what do I do with them?”
One of the first steps is to provide a Board Orientation. I have heard from several organizations that board members do not want to participate in an orientation, instead seeing it as a waste of time. The orientation should not be optional; it is a required board activity. Even if a board member has served on other boards, they are new to your board and new to the way you do things. (And, as an aside, I have encountered many “experienced” board members who are not familiar with good board practices.
A little bit of training is good for everyone.
Plan to spend a half-day with board members to ensure they understand all aspects of the organization and are equipped to govern well. The overall purpose of board orientation is to provide board members with the expectations the organization has for the board. Board member job descriptions should be discussed as well as participation expectations.
Include the following organizational information:
- Introduction to all staff leadership – explain their roles and responsibilities so the board can put a name and face to the position.
- Overview of programs and services – provide high level information about the work being done by the organization. It may work best if a program director or direct service provider makes the presentation as they will share their passion with the board members. (And, it will give the President and or CEO a break from talking).
- Copy of the strategic plan – help the board to understand where the organization is going over the next 1-3 years.
- Current Financial Statements – Have the finance officer present the financials and explain how to read a financial statement. What are the key indicators board members need to be looking at?
- Organization Cycles – Help the board to understand the fiscal year, the cycle of programs and services, etc.
- Fundraising Responsibilities – Is the board expected to attend functions, sell tickets to functions or gather items for events?
- Facilities – Where is the organization housed? Are facilities adequate or are your walls bursting at the seams as you continue to use a facility that you have outgrown?
- Partnerships, Challenges and Opportunities – In your board meetings you may discuss each of these areas; however, new board members are often left in the dark because they haven’t heard the back story. Take the time during the orientation to explain the backstory and to answer questions they might have. Then, they will be able to meaningfully contribute to discussions in future board meetings.
- Code of Conduct – Review for board members the code board members are expected to operate under, including the ethical standards the board abides by.
Orientation is just the first step in board development. Ideally, board development should be offered to all board members on a continuous basis about relevant topics. Plan to spend just 10-15 minutes at each board meeting training the board. Additionally, it is also helpful to provide a board manual for all board members, both tenured and new ones.
A healthy, well-trained board will serve the needs of the organization more effectively than a board that has not invested time and energy in board development.
How can we help you train your board?