3 Elements of Successful Board Orientations

If your organization’s leadership cycle operates on a calendar year, you are likely preparing to welcome new board members over the next few weeks. For most groups, this means a formal board orientation session to set expectations and provide insights for new board members.

As you plan your board orientation, here are three key elements to ensure success.

  1. Review historical context. A new board member will likely have many questions about why things operate the way they do, past decisions, and where the organization is heading. Ensure that they have access to past board minutes, the organization’s strategic plan and budget, and background on new or significant initiatives. Make sure there is time to discuss and review these elements so they have the information and context needed to make decisions moving forward.
  2. Review duties. A successful board orientation outlines exactly what board members are responsible for, as well as the policies and procedures in place to assist them in doing their jobs. Also, be sure they understand the overall structure of your organization, including staff roles and other key volunteer responsibilities (such as committee chairs, etc.). Providing a clear view of the overall structure of the organization will help them understand where their responsibilities start and end.
  3. Allow time to network. Give board members time to get to know each other. Because they’ll be working together for possibly several years (depending on the term limits of your organization), they will want to get to know who they’re working with and the backgrounds and perspectives they bring to the table. Every time a board member changes, the board has a completely new dynamic, so be sure to offer this opportunity often.

These three tips will give board members the tools they need to be effective for your organization. If you’ve recently completed a board orientation, what would you add to the list?