• Robert Osborne

On-Boarding Your Board


So, you have found the perfect board member. She is a generous donor, has provided great strategic advice to your organization, and is genuinely exited to be part of your board. She comes to the first board meeting and is largely quiet throughout the meeting, hesitantly raising her hand to ask a tentative question or two. The same thing happens at the next meeting. And the next. And the next.


Where did her energy and enthusiasm go? Too often we stop the job of cultivating and educating our board members once they have joined the board. This results in lost energy, enthusiasm and time as our new board member struggles to get herself up to speed and learn the ins and outs of the organization and where she can best make a contribution. The orientation of new board members is a critical step in your organization’s success. Just as we must do an outstanding job in identifying and recruiting new board members, we must bring them on to the board in ways that strengthen his or her success as a board member and thus the success of the organization.


To avoid this, set up a simple board orientation calendar. Here are a few quick tips for ensuring your board members are up-to-speed and engaged as quickly as possible:

  • Have a board handbook - include board meeting dates, bylaws, committee descriptions and commitments, other important dates, basic information about the organization, etc.

  • Have a sit down with the CEO in the first month - Answer any questions the new board member might have and provide an overview of the board

  • Assign a Board Mentor or Buddy - Assign a board member to help your new board member navigate the board. Check in quarterly or more.

  • Assign to a committee - Provide your new board member with a committee assignment right away to ensure they remain engaged

  • Provide several site tours within the first six months - Allow the board member to meet clients staff and get a sense of the day-to-day operations of your organization

  • Share strategic documents - Make sure your new board member is familiar with your strategic plan, your budget, etc.

  • Check in after a year - What is going well? What isn't?

There are many other things you can do but this should give you a basic sense of the kind of activities that will be helpful in ensuring your new board member is happy, engaged and providing value right away. Check out our Tools and Resources page for more information on building a strong board.


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