Orienting New Board Members

Orienting New Board Members

In last week’s Giving Back Column we discussed nonprofit board recruitment and shared helpful tips provided by Mark Dean during our recent “Get On Board” lunch workshop hosted by cityCURRENT and The Assisi Foundation of Memphis, Inc. If you missed that column, you can find it here. This week, lets assume you’ve used Mark’s tips to find the perfect candidate and recruit him or her to your nonprofit board; now it’s time to take the next step with a board member orientation.

Well before any new board member attends their first board meeting, set up a time for them to take a tour of your facilities, participate or observe program activities, and sit down for at least an hour with your Executive Director, Board Chair, and members of your staff. As Mark says, “Show and tell them what you do, how you do it and who benefits from your services.” Discuss the history and mission of your nonprofit, your programs and impact, strategic vision and direction for the future, and even the bylaws and organizational chart, so they understand the operation and how the different departments interact. Also, make sure to cover off on the finances. If possible, have your chief financial officer walk through how to read the financial reports, which can differ from those of for-profit entities, and talk about where the money comes from, how it’s spent, and the overall financial health of the organization.

Next, provide your new board members with a Board Book, which is usually a 3-ring binder that has some of the main information covered above, along with room to add handouts and minutes from upcoming meetings. One section in the Board Book should include information on their fellow board members, like bios and board positions. As you’re talking about some of the other members of the board, cover off on their roles and responsibilities, as well as the proper protocol for voting, making requests and suggestions.

Then, cover off on any available or required committee positions and ask them to sign your annual board member agreement and a Conflict of Interest Agreement. If available, provide them with a calendar of events that include set board meeting times, as well as any large fundraising events they will need to help promote and attend. Lastly, one of my favorite bits of advice was to assign each new board member with a current board member mentor. This mentor is responsible for checking in prior to each board meeting and making sure your new board member has all the resources and institutional knowledge needed to be successful, in order to help your nonprofit make the biggest difference possible!     


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