5 Tips for Onboarding Your Board

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Say your organization has just identified, vetted and voted to bring on three new board members. Congratulations! The collective skills, expertise and experience of your board coupled with effective function are critical to your organization’s good work in the community.

Now, how can you best set them up for success?

The first step to effective function is intentional onboarding to set the tone for a great tenure. Read on for 5 ways to onboard with purpose.

1. New Board Member Orientation

A new board member orientation both welcomes your new board member and reviews the basics about your organization and how the board fits in. Led by the board chair in partnership with the ED or CEO, the orientation should be held at your nonprofit’s offices and include touring the facility, meeting staff and observing program, if appropriate.

This is also a great time to review the board handbook (#2 below)—or at a minimum alert the new board member that this document exists.

2. Board Handbook

A comprehensive board handbook will help educate your members about your organization and empower them to serve. Often it makes sense for both efficiency and cost effectiveness to distribute the board handbook electronically—either published as a PDF, or even better, in an editable online format, such as Google docs or similar platform.

At a minimum, the handbook should include:

  •  Board member “contract” – although generally not legally binding, the contract outlines board member expectations and how the board will hold its members accountable. Ideally, these expectations were discussed during the vetting process so nothing will come as a surprise to your new board member! Blue Avocado provides a good example of a board member contract.
  • Board information – such as board roster, meeting schedule, committee overview and committee chairs, current strategic plan, etc.
  • Organizational information – such as bylaws, case statement, organizational chart, development and communications plans, program overview budgets, current financials, etc.

For more ideas on what to include in your board’s handbook, see this resource from SCG Nonprofits.

3. Board Buddy

If your nonprofit does not yet have a Board Buddy program in place, now is a great time to add one! A buddy program pairs your new board member with a seasoned one to help get your newbie up to speed. The seasoned member serves as a resource about “how things work” on your board.

As a bonus, the buddy program gets board members networking and socializing with each other, common reasons individuals seek a board position in the first place.

4. Welcome Reception

A welcome reception works especially well if you have several new members added to your slate at the same time. The reception doesn’t need to be fancy or expensive—it could be held at your offices—but it’s a great way to introduce new members to the rest of the board, and your staff, donors and community leaders.

5. A PR Splash

Consider announcing your new board members on your website, in your newsletters or via social media. Include a short bio of the new member and a quote from them about how excited they are to contribute to your organization. Not only is it nice recognition for their service, it also raises awareness for your organization.

If your city or town has a newspaper or business journal that includes an “On the Move” section, a simple press release sent to the paper can get some free publicity for your organization and new board members.

These 5 simple suggestions will make a tremendous difference for your new board members and, in turn, the success of your organization. Your new members will feel appreciated and will value your organized and intentional process for onboarding.

Also, your seasoned board members will be grateful that the newbies are up and running quickly and able to make contributions right out of the gate.

If you missed it, this post shares tips for helping a new staff person get started.

What are your tips for onboarding board members? Please share your thoughts, tips and advice in the Comments box below!

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