What is the best way to ensure the engagement, effectiveness, and commitment of a new board member? The best answer to that question is a good orientation and onboarding plan.
A board orientation program does not have to be complicated. It does need to have the commitment of current board members, the organization’s CEO, and senior leadership.
The easiest tool to create is a board member orientation checklist that outlines all of the steps in an orientation process. Having an orientation policy and procedure is also a good practice, but for ease of use, a checklist will ensure that you have taken all the important steps in an orientation process.
The orientation checklist should include the following:
- Overview of the organization
- Tour of the organization, satellite locations, etc.
- Presentation by the senior leadership of organizational materials that cover the operations; service lines and programs
- Important brochures and documents (website, an annual calendar, publications, and other materials that can be reviewed by the new member)
- History of the organization (founding, timeline of past events, articles of incorporation)
- Strategic direction (current strategic plan)
- Financial overview
- Financial statements
- Most recent audited financials
- Current budget
- Overview of financial structure (income and expenses)
- Organizational structure
- Organizational chart
- Board committees and structures
- Board operations and member roles & responsibilities (including fundraising, committees, etc.)
- Assignment of a board mentor
A good board orientation may take several months. Introducing the new board member to important stakeholders of the organization can take even longer. Orienting to the organization can be overwhelming so break up the orientation into several phases with shared responsibilities. Involving the Board Chair, other board members, and leadership keeps the orientation process interesting and allows for various views and experiences.
It is particularly important to follow up with a new board member at regular intervals. This is where the mentor role is so important. Having a mentor on the board who is regularly in touch with the new member helps to answer questions and provide insights that may be overlooked in the orientation process. The Board Chair and CEO should also be tasked with regularly checking in on the new board member.
It is important to keep in mind that the point of a good orientation process is to make new board members effective quickly. Understanding the mission, vision, and values of the organization is the best way for new board members to feel engaged and contribute their expertise for the good of the board and the organization’s future.
For more information, access the MHS Governance Resources page for resources and toolkits for recruiting, onboarding, and mentoring new board members
President / CEO, MHS