New Board Members Orientation: Tips and Best Practices

  • By: Adam Wire
  • April 14, 2022
New Board Members Orientation
Reading Time: 6 minutes

Whether you're a nonprofit or for-profit company, it’s always a good idea to prepare board orientation materials for your new board members.

New board member orientation provides new members with detailed information about the organization and the roles they’ll serve. Your organization likely follows an efficient onboarding process to help new employees effortlessly get acquainted with your team and hit the ground running. The same is necessary for your incoming board members to meet the rest of the board and get right down to business.

Familiarizing new board members with your culture and policies and introducing them to the full features and capabilities of the organization’s systems, such as your board management software, helps them become effective to the organization as soon as possible. 

Read on to learn tips and best practices for new board member orientation.

How Do You Find New Board Members in the First Place?

Before you even think of bringing new members on board, you should first know where and how to find the right match for your organization. Despite their level of experience, you need individuals who will be committed to the organization and are ready to advocate for the organization’s mission for a long time. 

Recruit board members effectively with these steps:

  • Form a nominating committee. From your existing team, pick a few members who are well-connected and experienced in the industry. Let them examine and highlight the strengths and weaknesses of the organization. With the findings, let them search for qualified candidates to fill those gaps. 
  • Utilize your volunteers. Take advantage of the volunteers who are already committed to supporting your cause and understand the organization’s processes. 
  • Consider your donors. Capitalize on your team of donors. They’re already committed to your cause, are well-connected in the community, and will likely boost your fundraising efforts. Regular and major donors would be a good fit.  
  • Extend your search to the community. Extend your search beyond your internal network and look for candidates from the outside. Look for local business owners or community leaders who may have a connection to your cause.

What's the Importance of a Proper Board Member Orientation?

When onboarding new members, a proper orientation process sets the stage for a seamless transition. It may be a break-or-make moment for them and your organization, as the onboarding process offers their first glimpse of what’s expected of them and how the organization runs. 

A proper board member orientation leaves new members inspired, engaged, and ready to contribute. It should also prepare them for their new roles and responsibilities.

Welcoming New Board Members Before the First Meeting

New board member orientation starts long before the first official board meeting. Connecting the new members with your team is crucial as it enables them to connect right away. Follow these steps to welcome new board members: 

1. Announce the Arrival of the New Board Members 

A new board member announcement helps new members feel appreciated and valued by your organization. It also informs existing board members, stakeholders, and the general public about the new incoming directors on your board. 

Share this news via email, social media, and your organization’s official website. 

2. Get Off on the Right Foot with the Newcomers 

Why not extend a warm welcome to the new members by organizing a meet-up? In conjunction with other key managerial positions like the executive director and committee chairs, your current board of directors can come together and welcome the new members. 

It’s important for new members to feel valued. If you’re unable to organize a face-to-face meeting, use board management meeting tools to host a virtual happy hour.

3. Add the New Members to Your Email Lists 

Remember to incorporate the new additions into the organization’s email lists. Including them in your email list is necessary to help them receive all the relevant information and updates, like the dates for upcoming board meetings. Our board management software can simplify this process by giving them instant access to everything they need on an all-inclusive platform. 

4. Schedule a Visit 

Plan a meeting with the new members at your organization. This helps acquaint them with the organization while learning key names and faces. 

Don’t forget to offer virtual tours for those who cannot honor the invitation to your facility. Gaining insight into your boardroom, staff, volunteers, and organization’s activities will prepare them for their first board meeting. 

How to Hold a New Board Member Orientation

You need an effective board member orientation process to get your new members up and running. Follow these best practices to conduct a successful board member orientation:

1. Generate a New Member Welcome Packet  

Start your onboarding process by creating a new board member welcome packet. This should be presented to them in advance of the first board meeting. It allows them ample time to read, review, and come up with relevant questions before the meeting. Include the following in the welcome packet: 

  • Background history, success, and accomplishments of the organization
  • List of the current board members and other key staff
  • Roles and responsibilities of the board directors 
  • Financial reports, including the approved budget for the year
  • Calendar and schedules for upcoming meetings and events 
  • Audit reports, bylaws, and amendment rules and procedures 
  • List of committees and their members
  • Minutes from previous board meetings 

Consider issuing a binder or board handbook containing all this information, or you can go paperless and provide digital documents and files for easy access anywhere, anytime. 

2. Acquaint New Members with the Organization 

Apart from the items discussed above, you should help the new members to understand how the organization runs, its processes, culture, and the roles and responsibilities of each staff member. Each member should know exactly what is expected of them and how to go about their duties and responsibilities. 

For example, they should be aware of the organization’s mission, purpose, and policies, such as conflict of interest disclosure and whistleblower policies. Whether through consensus or voting, let them know how the decisions are made in the organization. Remember, all this is in addition to helping them understand their duties and responsibilities as board members. 

Be sure to mention the organization’s daily activities and the framework of operation. You can also cover other staff’s specific roles and duties, like the treasurer, secretary, and administrators. This information, plus the new board member welcome packet, can serve as your board orientation checklist. 

3. Assign Each New Member a ‘Board Buddy’ 

You don’t want it to take several months, a year, or two before a new board member develops the courage and confidence to express their views at the board meeting. Instead, you want them to instantly hit the ground running and contribute to the board table. 

For this reason, consider requesting a veteran board member to act as the board buddy or mentor to the newbies. They can interact with the new member 1-on-1, answer their questions, and follow up to ensure they seamlessly navigate the initial board sessions. 

What's the Role of the Existing Board Members?

Besides offering to mentor the new members, the existing board members play a crucial role in onboarding newcomers. First, as veteran board members, attending the new members’ onboarding process demonstrates pride in the organization and makes the new members feel valued. Moreover, they can present their areas of expertise, such as fundraising or public relations. 

This extends a warm welcome to the new members and also gives them the chance to acquire greater insights into unfamiliar areas. It also allows other existing members, who perhaps missed or would like a refresher of the orientation, to catch up on the fundamentals.

Tips for New Board Members

New board members should prep for onboarding as well. These essential tips can help them navigate their new roles successfully: 

  • Fulfill obligations: New members should honor their commitments. 
  • Plan ahead: Nothing’s as embarrassing as attending a meeting when you’re unprepared. Tell the newcomers to prepare in advance for meetings by reviewing the agenda and other related meeting documents. 
  • Create a liaison with others:  New members should actively communicate and interact to build healthy relationships with their colleagues. 
  • Speak up: Value everyone’s perspectives to encourage the new members to express their opinions openly and candidly. 

You can consider adding these tips to your new board member orientation checklist.

How OnBoard Software Can Smooth New Board Member Orientation Process

It’s important to heighten your orientation process and allow a seamless transition for the new members. The faster the transition process, the more effective the new members become to the board and your organization. 

Fortunately, you can employ our Board Management Software to streamline the entire onboarding process and eventually set up the organization for success. OnBoard’s software allows Zoom Integration to enable a face-to-face meeting even with members who prefer to stay remote. 

There are also options to sign documents online, automatically create minutes, track attendance, and vote virtually. Step up your orientation process with Board Assessments and Roles & Terms Management to allow easy transition into new roles. 

Contact OnBoard or request a free trial to learn how you can offer a customized onboarding experience for new board members.

About The Author

Adam Wire
Adam Wire
Adam Wire is a Content Marketing Manager at OnBoard who joined the company in 2021. A Ball State University graduate, Adam worked in various content marketing roles at Angi, USA Football, and Adult & Child Health following a 12-year career in newspapers. His favorite part of the job is problem-solving and helping teammates achieve their goals. He lives in Indianapolis with his wife and two dogs. He’s an avid sports fan and foodie who also enjoys lawn and yard work and running.