Board Orientation 101

By Dottie Schindlinger

Few things are more satisfying to new board members than the realization that they have not only made a smart decision to join a board but that they can immediately begin to make meaningful contributions. And nothing fosters that certainty more than a dynamic, interactive board orientation.

Continuing education
Orientation should be thought of as a process rather than a one-day meeting — and it should be structured to promote self-guided discovery by board members. This can be done in an intentional, manageable and powerful way by following a few key practices:

Centralize information: One important step is to share documents the existing board believes best define its work and priorities and to do so in one central repository. Providing these resources in one place, such as a board portal, not only makes the process more efficient for new members but also allows them to easily find needed resources as they grow into their role.

Share key documents: Some organizations choose to jump-start the learning process and foster transparency by sharing with board candidates background information about the organization and the commitments directors are expected to make, even before candidates decide whether to join the board. Past meeting minutes and discussions, board policies, the organization’s articles of incorporation and by laws, descriptions of board processes, and the organization’s mission and history are examples of key documents board members should have at their disposal to review before their first orientation session.

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