I proudly serve on a community board where we have recently recruited new directors and are now in full board orientation planning mode. This moment has allowed me to take a few steps back as a governance consultant and to look at the orientation process from a board member lens. Namely, what were the gaps in my own orientation and how can we set up our new directors for success?
Board orientation is not just about the transfer of information or running through a slide deck. It’s also about building relationships between individual board members, the board as a whole and staff.
Here are some tips to set up your new directors for success.
Create a Buddy System
Pair up new directors with more senior directors. Encourage them to meet, have coffee and to discuss how the newbies can be supported as they transition onto the board. The buddy can act as an advisor and can answer any questions that the new directors have before, after or between meetings.
Observe a Board Meeting Prior to Officially Onboarding
Invite new directors to attend the board meeting prior to their first official meeting as an observer. This will give new directors a good sneak peek into what they are getting themselves into! They will also have the opportunity to meet the other board members and the senior leadership team which will help makes things more familiar for their first official meeting.
Organize a Tour of the Office and Meet Staff
Take new directors on a tour of the office. Introduce them to staff. Both the directors and staff will appreciate the opportunity to connect.
Meet with the Board Chair and ED/CEO
Set up one-on-one meetings with each of the board chair and the Executive Director/CEO. Get their insights regarding the board, the
organization, the strategic plan and what they think is required for new directors to hit the ground running.
Hold the Actual Orientation Meeting
Hold a dedicated meeting solely for board orientation. The chair should run this meeting, with the input of others as needed. Invite all current board members and ask them to share their experience regarding their own board service and what they get out of it. Try to keep it informal so new directors can be more relaxed.
Evaluate the New Board Orientation Process
Follow up with new directors about two months after their first board meeting to obtain feedback on their onboarding experience and to evaluate the effectiveness of the orientation program.
Board orientations are not just about transferring knowledge. They are about building new relationships that will strengthen over time for the
overall benefit of your board and of your non-profit.
As always, if you need help with board orientations or any other governance project, don't hesitate to reach out!
Yours in Good Governance,
Heather Terrence, CAE
Pinpoint Governance Group