As we approach the new year, you may find some new faces at your next board meeting. Here are a few ways to ensure new members are effectively onboarded and your organization keeps moving forward through this transition:
1. Have Clear Job Descriptions and Policies
Before you welcome new board members, ensure your organization has a clear job description for each board position. It is also helpful to have clear policies that provide guidance on conflict of interest, how the board makes decisions and works with staff, and travel and other reimbursements.
2. Welcome New Board Members
Think back to your first day on the board. What made you feel welcome? Make sure their first interaction at the board table is a positive one by welcoming new members and doing introductions. A phone call from an experienced board member prior to the meeting to answer questions is helpful as well.
3. Train New Board Members
Provide a detailed orientation for new board members that covers the basics of the organization (structure, programs and services, policies), the organization’s mission and vision, the current strategic plan and ongoing projects, key challenges, and a financial overview. In addition to providing information about the organization, make sure new board members know how to read the financial statements and what they should do to prepare for board meetings.
4. Revisit Your Mission, Vision and Strategic Goals Often
Include your mission, vision and strategic goals on your board materials for every board meeting. Post your mission and vision somewhere visible (i.e. the back of name cards) to remind board members why you are there.
5. Learn What They Are Passionate About
Understand why new members joined the board and what they are passionate about. Connect them to ongoing projects that they will find meaningful and interesting.
6. Provide Context When Discussing Ongoing Projects
It is likely you have some ongoing issues that to cover at your next meeting. Remember, while you may have been talking about this issue for months or even years, new board members have not. Providing the background information and context in the board materials and taking a few minutes to discuss and allow for questions before moving forward will ensure new members can contribute effectively.
7. Call On New Members by Name During the Meeting
New board members may prefer to sit back and listen instead of engaging in conversations. Call on new members to contribute to the conversation and remind them their fresh perspective and experience is needed to move the organization forward.
Making an intentional effort to welcome, train and engage new board members will not only provide a positive experience for these new members, but ensure your organization doesn’t lose momentum as you start a new year.