Most board members come onto a nonprofit board with a sense of excitement and anticipation. They are anxious to serve the organization and the cause it stands for. But, in all honesty, there is probably a little bit of nervousness since they are walking into a new situation that brings with it some “unknowns.” The best orientation process begins even before the new board member becomes an official part of the board.
As you “court” potential board members, you will want to provide them with information so that they know and understand the organization and what will be expected of them. Job descriptions for board members are essential; they provide guidance and direction and set expectations. Most of us would not accept a job offer without knowing what was expected of us-think about it, would you want to accept a position if you were not offered a job description?
Develop a board packet to be given to potential board members. The packet should include the following information:
Organizational Overview: The overview does not have to be lengthy but should cover the highlights of the organization’s work. Has the organization recently experienced a change in direction? Does the organization have a lengthy history? Provide enough information to tweak the interest of the individual without providing so much information that it takes hours to read. (There is a time and place for this sort of information later).
Mission and Vision: Since the organization’s mission statement is its statement of purpose and its vision is how the world will be changed by the work of the organization, it is important that board members know, understand and align themselves to them. Sharing this information in advance allows the individual to ask him/herself if the organization is one that he/she wants to get behind and support.
Financials: Providing potential board members with the current financials will help them to understand the current position of the organization (both fiscal position and programmatic position). Additionally, providing them with some historical financial information in the form of a recent 990 will also be helpful.
Board Roster: Providing a current listing of board members will help the individual to feel more comfortable and also helps to demonstrate organizational stability and reputation.
Board Application: An application is not necessarily required, but using an application process allows you to standardize your processes. Through an application, the organization can customize the process to ensure that the information they deem important is collected prior to appointment to the board. In addition to an application, many organizations also ask for a resume from all board candidates.
Finally, as part of the prospective board packet, a letter from the board president should be included. This brief letter is warm and inviting and will also outline the next steps in the process. Never leave the potential board member wondering whether or not they are accepted or what the next steps are.
Laying the foundation for board members prior to bringing them on-board is important and helps to ensure that high-quality board members are a part of the organization and that when they come on-board they are aware of the commitment they are making.
We can help your organization develop a board orientation process. Contact us today to get started…to build the firm foundation of your organization.