Here we go – another fall season is upon us! A time when many nonprofit leaders are overseeing the launch of new programs, breathing new energy into long-standing programs, gearing up for a year-end philanthropy push and oh yeah – you’re coming out of the typically quieter summer board season and kicking off the new board year. Oy.
Here’s the good news – you aren’t expected to do all this yourself. Keep in mind that highly effective boards leverage the experience of current board members to help create a great experience for the new ones. And we know that if their early experience is positive, the odds that they’ll renew their term and stick around for the long haul goes up.
How does this work? Try this:
1. Clarify what your new peeps need. They’re each different and some may need ongoing support if this is their first nonprofit board experience. Others may be on track but need to know how to tell your particular story. And still others may be ready to step into a leadership role and just need to understand where they fit.
Knowing what each new member needs is an important first step to successfully onboarding them.
2. Identify which current members may be good options for filling the needs of these new board members. Who can serve as a mentor to spend a bit more time to support someone without nonprofit experience? Who is your best ambassador that can share their story telling skills? Who has demonstrated excellent leadership and would be a good choice for a rookie to shadow?
Be intentional about who you enroll as champions to coach your new board members. You want to be sure each member has a positive experience.
3. Present this opportunity with appropriate structure. It really is an honor to be part of another person’s professional development. Many current board members will be flattered you asked them and will be willing to step in. (And if it doesn’t work for them now, move on knowing a forced match wouldn’t be productive anyway). Then outline expectations, in writing if needed, and let them know when you’ll check back in with them and share how you will be available to support the process.
With the right format, this can be a highly effective engagement strategy for both veteran and new board members which serves your organization well in the long term also.
You’re not in this alone.
You have a team of volunteers who will enthusiastically support you – just ask them to do something specific. Like mentoring your new board members to engage them early and get them off on the right foot. Just imagine what you can do with 100% participation from your board!
You can do this. Your community is counting on you. Use the collective talent that is surrounding you and create more impact than ever!