How to Ensure Effective and Engaged Nonprofit Boards – Part Three – Board Member Orientation and Training

Photo by Michigan Municipal League via Flickr

How to Ensure Effective and Engaged Nonprofit Boards – Part One – Finding Good Board Members

How to Ensure Effective and Engaged Nonprofit Boards Part Two – Board Member Expectations and Requirements

Your next step to ensuring effective and engaged board members is to give your new members an orientation.  If you are bringing on more than one board member,do the orientation for all new members at same time. This can help them feel more engaged right away. Make it congenial and include food. You want your new board members to feel welcome.

The board orientation is conducted by the Board Chair,and a few other select board members,including the Board Treasurer to go over financials. The Executive Director should also be there. If appropriate,involve some senior staff,perhaps the Development Director and Marketing Director. This meeting should take place before the next full board meeting.

Give each new board member a board manual before the orientation and have them look it over before attending. This link contains a list of items to include in your board manual. What goes in the board of directors manual?  Don’t overwhelm people with too much information.  

During the orientation,go over some of the key parts of the manual. New members should be encouraged to ask questions.

Here are some items to cover in the orientation. Of course, you should tailor it as needed.

ByLaws and Other Organizational Documents
You don’t need to go over every bylaw, but make sure members are familiar with them,as well other documents such as the 990 and audit forms.

History and Mission
Briefly go over the history and mission of your organization. Give an overview of what your organization does and talk about key programs and accomplishments.  

Strategic Plan
Summarize the main parts of your strategic plan. Be prepared to answer questions the new members may have.

Expectations and Requirements
Revisit some of the expectations and requirements you discussed with your members prior to joining the board. See Board Member Expectations and Requirements  Now is a good time for them to sign their board agreement, if they haven’t already done so.


Discuss which committee the board member should join. This is often a requirement. The board manual should include committee job descriptions that will help members decide which committee is right for them.  

Key Messaging

Make sure your orientation material includes key organizational messaging – tag lines, talking points,and elevator pitches. Here is some information in case you don’t have organizational messaging  The 4 Cornerstones of an Engaging Message Platform Board members serve as ambassadors of the organization and often meet with funders and other members of the community. They must use your official organizational messaging.

Consider assigning new board members a mentor (someone who has served on the board for more than a year). The mentor can be available to answer questions the new board member may have. After the new member has served for a year, he or she can mentor an incoming board member. This is another way to help board members feel engaged.

New board members may need training in certain areas.Training is not limited to new board members and should be used on an ongoing basis.

If your new board members don’t have a financial background,give them a finance training. Board members are responsible for the financial well-being of the organization and need to approve the annual budget. Go over all financial forms and budgets to make sure they understand them. 

Board members are often required to fundraise. If your members are not familiar with fundraising, you will need to give them a training. Make sure the training is done by someone experienced in fundraising. Here are some things to include. How Board Members Can Become Effective Fund-Raisers

Consistency in messaging is crucial.You could conduct a training where board members practice their elevator pitches.Create role play situations, such as having them talk to potential donors. Here is a more detailed explanation of an exercise. Powerful Elevator Speech Exercise for Your Board Members This can also be an ongoing training.

Ongoing Training
Periodically use your regular board meetings for training. If your meetings are two hours,conduct business during the first hour and do a training during the second hour. Using a consent agenda can help keep your meeting on time. Here is more information What is a consent agenda or consent calendar? Seek input from your members to see what types of training they would like. Some possibilities include leadership,team building,or perhaps a quick fundraising training before your next annual appeal.

In addition to trainings, keep your board members updated on your organization’s accomplishments. Include a brief report with each board meeting agenda. 

Making sure your board members know their role and what your organization does will make them more effective and engaged.

Here is some additional information about Board Orientation and Training.
Orienting and Training Board Members

Board Orientation

In my next post,I will write about the role of boards in fundraising.

For everything you wanted to know about boards, go to Board Source

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