It takes planning and effort to bring in new board members, but what happens after they are voted in?
At a recent Board meeting I attended, members were thrilled to vote in two new impressive members. Both bring skills and expertise that the Board had identified as needs, namely public policy and medical expertise.
This brings the total new Board members in 2019 to six, the Board’s largest cohort in many years. It is invigorating to have new energy, fresh perspectives and creative ideas, but if new Board members are not immediately engaged, opportunities can be lost.
In anticipation of bringing on new Board members, the Governance Committee and a few Board members reflected on their personal experiences of joining the Board. From this exercise, the following onboarding steps were identified as important to successful Board member engagement:
1. Welcome: Immediately after being voted in, new Board members will receive a welcome email or phone call from the Board President or Governance Committee Chair. This email or call will outline the next steps in the process.
2. Onboarding Packet: An onboarding package is provided electronically to each new Board member. The onboarding package includes:
- A summary of programs and services offered
- A strategic plan overview
- Expectations of Board service (including the annual give-get commitment)
- Board committee descriptions
- Board member bios
- A copy of the bylaws
- Confidentiality, conflict of interest and whistleblower forms
3. Orientation: The board orientation is scheduled between the voting in and the first Board meeting. Expectations for committee service are discussed at the orientation, along with other Board responsibilities. While minimum annual financial commitments should have been clearly communicated during the recruitment stage, they should be re-emphasized at the orientation, along with expectations for in-person attendance at Board meetings, participation at fundraising events, and committee service. Signed conflict of interest and whistleblower forms are collected at this time.
4. Mentors and Check-ins: During orientation, or shortly thereafter, new Board members select their committee and if appropriate, committee chairs are assigned as mentors as they are best positioned for check-ins. The role of the mentor is to debrief, have check-in points, answer questions and make connections. To ensure this happens, it may be best for the mentor to calendar these one-on-one check-ins after each Board or committee meeting.
Need more suggestions?
Nonprofit Boards are being challenged in new ways, and Board governance is more important today than ever. In GHJ Nonprofit Whitepaper, the Nonprofit team took a closer look at engaging the board and the Board’s responsibilities around governance, including strategy and risk, advocacy and fundraising. Download a copy of the repost here. For additional resources on Board orientation, BoardSource has helpful resources for Board orientation, including the top 10 responsibilities of Board members and a slide deck template for the orientation session itself.