After meeting dozens of people who would like to serve on a nonprofit board, one thing they all have in common is their desire to do a great job as a board member. However, very few small nonprofit staffs have the expertise or personnel readily available to provide new board members with the tools needed to navigate through the web of policies and procedures they will encounter.
Why New Board Members Need Training
Most nonprofits are just happy to find a person interested enough to join the board—but to keep them engaged and feeling productive, it’s necessary to do some training. That’s because a new board member may have no idea of what needs to be done or how to do it. Even new members with prior board experience will need to learn the ins and outs of the particular nonprofit’s board operations.
How Orientation and Training Help New Board Members
Board orientation and training is therefore important for a member because it helps them learn how they can best serve as a professional asset to the nonprofit. These sessions provide new board members with the specific knowledge and resources to know how to execute their roles and responsibilities successfully. Traditionally, the Board President and the CEO or Executive Director take the lead in instructing and familiarizing new members by discussing the board’s and nonprofit’s goals and priorities. Orientations also allow current board members to interact and share information about how the nonprofit and the board function together.
Steps to Board Orientation and Training
Ideally, a board needs to have a plan in place for orientation and a process for training new board members. Below are some guidelines, and Spokes members can visit the Resource Library page on our website to find a more complete listing.
- Orientation should take place shortly after a new member is elected to the board, ideally before the new member’s first meeting, and should be conducted by the board chair along with the executive director and anyone else they think is appropriate.
- New board members should be fully briefed on the activities of the nonprofit, the history of the organization and their strategic plan, and be given copies of prior board minutes, the articles of incorporation and bylaws in a New Board Member Orientation Manual customized to reflect the nonprofit’s administrative structure.
- A board agenda and any documents needed for their first meeting should be added into the New Member Board Orientation Manual.
- Assign a current board member as a “buddy” to mentor a new board member, and ask the new member if they would like to join one of the board committees as well. Working with a smaller group on a specific project can help balance out the sometimes overwhelming number of issues a new board member must digest at the beginning of their term.
Resources for Board Orientation and Training
Spokes Members can find a more complete outline on their Member’s Online Resource Library page:
Member General Resources Links:
Board Manual Template: