Adding new board members can be exciting and is crucial in developing a successful nonprofit. Board members volunteer their time, resources, and expertise to advance your organization’s mission, help it reach a broader audience, and fulfill its promises, and are ultimately an essential element of the success of any nonprofit.
To set up new board members for success, it is vital to have a thorough and strategic onboarding process, just as you may have for new hires.
During the onboarding process, you are disseminating a large amount of information in a short amount of time. So staying organized will help current and new board members navigate the transition.
Training Is an Important Part of Your Onboarding Process
There are many moving parts to achieving a successful and effective nonprofit board. Training new board members helps everyone align with their duties, keeps them motivated, and provides direction for the nonprofit to achieve its goals. In addition, defined roles and responsibilities help you manage expectations and keep everyone on the same page.
5 Areas To Train Nonprofit Board Members
Arming your new board members with the tools needed to succeed in their new roles is necessary and wise. The first part of your onboarding should focus on training your new board members to be able to amplify your nonprofit’s work, which includes your back story and messaging as well as overall objectives.
Successful nonprofits rely on building relationships and the financial resources needed to continue. Ensuring your new board members can speak in great detail about your organization will bring the confidence they need for any event they participate in.
If you’re looking to make a real impact with your nonprofit, you want a team of people who are passionate about your cause and share your vision.
Some critical pieces of information that may be helpful include:
- Your nonprofit’s mission, values, and history
- Current board members and key staff information
- A conflict of interest policy
- Whistleblower policy
- Board roster, committees, charters, and who serves on them
- Calendar of meetings for the year ahead
- Bylaws and certificate of incorporation
- Board travel reimbursement policy
- Annual reports, financial reports, and audited financial statements
One of the biggest challenges with nonprofit organizations is that things will sometimes go differently than planned. Preparing the incoming board members on how to handle curveballs will play a role in the success of your board. In addition, understanding how to handle crises by rising to the occasion might mean a quick turnaround when things falter.
Part of this preparation must happen before you bring in new board members. Contingency policies and crisis management plans are both tools you’ll need to work on when things are calm so that you’re ready to face any potential issues down the line.
Your board members are responsible for earning and maintaining the trust of donors, the public, and stakeholders within the organization. Therefore, ensuring that your board members are trustworthy and ethical is crucial to running a successful board. Additionally, instilling a sense of responsibility in your board members will help keep them accountable for their actions.
Just as organizations employ people of diverse backgrounds and personalities, the most effective boards are those whose members represent different experiences and sectors. However, learning to work together as a diverse group is sometimes challenging. Therefore, creating an environment of team-building and supporting each other’s roles and responsibilities will help not only the future of your organization but provide a positive experience for the board members.
Often board members are expected to fill in whenever there are gaps in board roles. Therefore, cross-training is advisable to prepare new board members for if and when the situation arises. In addition, you will find it helpful to provide the training for various skills and roles needed to fulfill different responsibilities.
Acclimating New Board Members in Your Nonprofit
Chances are your board members don’t meet frequently enough to build the same rapport co-workers typically experience with each other. But because of their role as leaders and experts within your organization, your new board members must be prepared to dive in confidently.
One of the first steps of your onboarding process for welcoming any board member into your team is to create a welcome packet with some of the tools mentioned above. A welcome pack allows new board members to have a consistent onboarding experience and a quick resource when needed.
Your welcome packet may include a combination of the following:
- Welcome letter, briefly outlining their role and the nonprofit’s mission.
- A messaging guide.
- List of tools or software they will need in their role.
- Contact information of the board and leadership teams.
- Internal policies and ethics manuals.
- A calendar of upcoming events and board meetings.
Additionally, setting up a brief orientation may be necessary to provide the opportunity for icebreaker introductions, assigning a mentor or board buddy, and providing the confidence they need to feel comfortable debating and communicating with the board.
Another helpful way to acclimate new board members to the nonprofit structure is to schedule meetings with new board members and critical C-suite stakeholders. The CEO, CFO, board chair, and administrative staff. This can provide helpful information to new board members and allow them to ask questions regarding the nonprofit structure, policies, and financials.
Finally, a great way to acclimate new board members is by developing performance expectations. New board members will have a guideline of goals to strive for while having a gauge or measurement for expectations. Defining expectations is also helpful when evaluating the performance of new board members and existing board members.
Leveraging the Talent of Nonprofit Board Members
Nonprofit board members bring unique skills and experience to your organization that are essential for achieving organizational goals. As a nonprofit leader, you can leverage the individual skills of each board member to provide critical guidance and support to the executive team in areas such as fundraising, leadership and management, and even partnership development, allowing the executive team to effectively carry out their responsibilities and fill gaps in current staffing.
However, the best way to leverage your new board members’ talent is by asking them to identify areas they could or would like to add value. Aligning their passions with your goals is a great way to keep new board members motivated and develop deeper relationships. Additionally, it is wise to do some preliminary research on past performances as you fill your board. If new board members have served on other boards, it might be helpful to learn the areas they served, their performance, what talents and skills they utilized, and how that aligns with your goals.
Each nonprofit board member is a valuable asset to the organization. With the proper onboarding, it is easier to expect consistent success. Schedule a free consultation today if you are preparing to welcome new board members and need further support!