That’s right – it’s possible to conduct energetic orientations which inspire your new members!  Maybe I should start by asking if you hold new board member orientations.   A common concern among nonprofit CEOs is how to conduct an effective orientation.   While a new board member’s learning curve is not conquered with a one time session, a formal orientation should occur.   Since you are probably close to recruiting season, I thought I would help get you positioned for success going forward.

There are several goals to keep in mind:

  •  To  build relationships among board members, because they need to bond in order to work together as a motivated team
  •  To be perceived as a  professional organization, and make a good impression
  • To discuss key information about the organization and its culture so new members have a strong foundation on which to make good decisions, and understand how business is conducted
  • To provide the necessary overview of legal documents and responsibilities so they clearly understand their fiduciary responsibilities
  • To review board member expectations and roles again, and ensure understanding

Make sense?  So now how do we get that done effectively without it being a snooze fest?

Here are some winning practices to consider:

  •  Hold an orientation the same month every year and establish the season when all new members can attend as the new, enthusiastic  “class” of members.  It’s inspiring to belong to a group who has agreed to serve. I will say it again – conduct a group orientation, not a one-to-one meeting.  The dynamic is much different and they will learn from each other, also
  •  Ideally, have the Board President lead it, with support from the CEO and President Elect, or another tenured board member.  They are the leaders of the organization and this is a prime opportunity to demonstrate leadership.  New members can have early access to these folks and instantly feel part of the team.
  • Create an organized agenda with opportunities to participate that will increase learning and engagement.  This is not meant to be a rambling lecture. Otherwise, you risk boredom and disinterest – this is when everyone starts checking their phones for emails.
  • Guarantee a dynamic discussion by understanding this is an opportunity for two way discussion.  In addition to covering key points, ask open-ended questions of the rookies.  This is a very effective way of helping them feel valued early, while learning about the organization.  Create a culture of inquiry right from the start and your odds of drawing them in dramatically increase.
  •  Distribute as much information in advance as practical, and don’t waste too much time on the boring stuff during the orientation – bylaws are important, but it’s also important to use your board members’ time wisely on matters that interest them too.  They didn’t join your board to discuss term limits.
  • Try to arrange a gathering either before or after the orientation to create an opportunity for socializing with all board members.  For example, if the orientation is held at 4:30 p.m., a cocktail hour could follow.  Or a light breakfast could precede it on a Saturday morning.   The more opportunities new members have to build relationships, the more likely they are to stay on the board longer.

High energy, successful board orientations will have the new members leaving with a little bounce in their step!  It will confirm these volunteers made the right decision by agreeing to serve.   The amount of time you invest to ensure a lively, engaging session will reap rewards throughout the year.

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