So, you have new board members. You need to start them out right. Don’t make them take a year trying to figure it out on their own about your organization. You want to start them off with professionalism, enthusiasm, and ensure they have everything they need to get started off being an advocate for your organization’s mission.
To get this off on the right foot you need a new board member onboarding process. This process is critical in getting individuals up to speed. Unfortunately, most nonprofits underdeliver or don’t have a process in place at all.
Creating a good board member onboarding experience will take a little extra effort on your end, but the results will be a strong board member that is effective and engaged.
Here are four simple steps you can take to provide an outstanding onboarding experience for new board members, including:
- Conduct an orientation
- Announce new board members to the public
- Create a board member manual
- Assign board buddies
1. Conduct an Orientation
The orientation is the critical next step in the board building process.
If your organization has never conducted an orientation, consider having every member of the board attend. In fact, some nonprofits host annual orientations for board members.
If you currently hold an orientation, consider having the board development committee and the executive director co-facilitate together. Other key board and staff members should take part in the orientation as well. It is also appropriate to invite current board members to attend all or part of the orientation as a refresher and to meet the new members.
It is beneficial to hold the orientation at your nonprofit’s headquarters, if convenient for board members, to give them a tour of the facility and a sense of the working environment.
The board orientation should have a timed agenda (around 90 minutes), should include food and each new board member should receive a board member manual.
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2. Announce New Board Members to the Public
During the orientation present the new board member with a certificate of service and take a picture. Advise them to place the certificate in their office where community members see they serve on the organization’s board. In addition to this extend a warm welcome to your new board members by sharing the news with your community using the plaque presentation picture or their professional headshot. By making a public announcement, you’re telling new members that you’re proud to have them on your team. Plus, this is an easy way to keep key stakeholders in the loop and let them know that you have new additions to your team. Share the news in your newsletter, on social media, on the website, and in a news release.
No matter how you share the good news, this simple step of officially announcing your team members makes them feel valued, enables you to remind your community of the hard work that goes into fulfilling your mission, and extends the board member’s credibility to your organization.
3. Create a Board Member Manual
When welcoming new board members, documents are always part of the process. But boards produce a great deal of paperwork, and it can be overwhelming for new members if you throw too many documents their way all at once. Physical documents can quickly pile up and become cumbersome to carry around, so consider digitizing documents using google drive.
As a strong starting point, here’s what a complete board member manual should include:
- mission and vision statements
- organizational history
- bylaws and policies
- strategic plan
- financial summaries
- fundraising plan
- meeting process & calendar
- committee information
- organization chart
- annual report
- marketing materials
- case for support
- board job description and
- board expectation form – this form should be collected at the end of the orientation from each in attendance.
4. Assign Board Buddies
Joining a nonprofit’s board can be intimidating. Many can waste a lot of time just trying to figure out what is going on during the meetings. They may be afraid to ask questions for fear of looking silly. You can ease this process by assigning a board buddy.
- Board buddies: A veteran board member is assigned to sit next to the new member at their first meeting or calls the new member before and after the meeting to check-in.
- Orientation calls: Veteran board members are assigned to set up calls with a class of new members to review and answer any questions they may have post-orientation. This should be done about 2 months into their board service.
This experience can be just as valuable and enjoyable for the veteran board member as well. It gives them an outlet to share their passion for your mission, effectively sparking more enthusiasm for their own work. They’ll also be conscious of the fact that they should set a positive example in meetings, which can directly impact their participation and performance.
Remember board members are volunteers. They have their full-time jobs, families, and other obligations. Your nonprofit should be willing to provide extra help and resources from the start to get them off on the right foot for your organization. Board members come from all sorts of backgrounds, and many don’t have prior experience working on a nonprofit board. Even if they have previous board experience each nonprofit operates a little differently.
Building a successful onboarding strategy can turn your new board members’ enthusiasm into actual progress for your nonprofit. The results will be well worth the extra effort.
I hope this helps. Let me know. Sharing is caring.
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