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Onboarding Board Members

Once board members have been identified and recruited, and board members to attend their first board meeting, you might be wondering what you need to do to get them ready to serve. The answer is to orient them.  Unfortunately, orientation is often forgotten as boards get to the “real work of the organization.” However, a strong orientation process will equip nonprofit and ministry boards to be stronger and more effective—in other words, the “real work” of the organization will get done better when every individual board member has an orientation.

Prior to the first board meeting, spend some time with board members.  Note-If they are too busy to make time for an orientation meeting, then they are probably too busy to be a board member. Provide them with a tour of the facilities, let them see where the work of the organization is done.  Allow them to meet those you serve to really understand what you do, how you do it and why you do it.

Next, have a presentation by the Executive Director or Chief Executive Officer. You may also want to include key staff; this is an opportunity for new board members to ask questions and begin building a positive working relationship with organization leadership. If your organization has a video, orientation is also a good time to show the video. The orientation process is the perfect opportunity to help board members build passion for the organization and its mission.  

As part of this initial presentation to the new board members, you will also want to include information about the history of the organization. Note – If you are not keeping a written organizational history, this is a good reason to pull it together and keep it up to date. It will also be important to provide them with copies of current newsletters and brochures so they can see what the public is currently seeing.

While you probably went over expectations of board members during the recruitment process, you will want to review expectations as part of the orientation. It will be most helpful to provide board members with a written job description that outlines all of the expectations.

Spend some time reviewing the organization’s strategic plan. Because the strategic plan sets the direction of the organization for the next few years, and should be used to guide the work of the board, board members need to understand the contents of the strategic plan, how the organization is progressing toward its goals and what obstacles it is encountering. It is also helpful to provide information about any environmental changes that may have occurred to alter the course of the strategic plan.

During this discussion, it will also be important for leadership to discuss any issues that the organization is facing that may negatively impact it. It is always best to be prepared and forewarned of difficult situations that may become public knowledge.

As part of the orientation process, board members should also be provided with an orientation notebook.  Next week, we will focus on the contents of the notebook.  Need help developing an orientation for your board members? Contact us today!

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