Why is it some boards demonstrate a culture of excellence year after year while some seem to struggle just to get a majority of directors to show up for meetings or to make important decisions?
Why do some nonprofits seem to show up everywhere in your community while others (maybe yours) are rarely in the public eye?
Why do some nonprofits have a waiting list of board candidates while others (maybe yours) have to scramble each year to find someone who will join your board?
I think these problems are related and symptoms of the real problem – poor or inadequate board training.
Board candidates are usually thrilled to be asked to own a board, but motivation and a big heart are not enough to ensure a successful run as a director. It takes much more. It can only be delivered through new director orientation training and periodic refresher training for existing directors.
Here are five benefits of effective new director orientation and periodic board retraining which will assuredly lead to your leading a more successful agency.
1. Engages Board Members (New and Existing)
Creating an effective new director orientation makes it easier for members to jump into their new responsibilities and efficiently contribute to the organization. Having a solid board training program allows your new directors to become more comfortable with their surroundings and better adjust to the way your nonprofit does things.
Let’s not forget that board training isn’t just for new members. Offering periodic board training for existing members is a great way to engage the full board and make sure that everyone is on the same page.
New director orientation makes your new directors more comfortable in this new board environment so they are willing to get involved earlier in their service, than otherwise. If they develop a bad habit of silently sitting around early on in their service, it probably will not change later.
2. Outlines Expectations and Your Organization’s Purpose
Training is a great opportunity to make it clear what your agency’s mission is, what services your agency hopes to provide, and how effective your agency is. Rather than assume the new director fully grasps your agency’s “why” and how you address it, take time to sit and review it with them so they can become better equipped to serve in high-value manner.
It’s also important to note how new members contribute to you’re agency’s overall mission. Taking the time to explain their role means they can more quickly become a valued member of your board. New directors are motivated and excited to begin their work so give them the opportunity to do so as early as possible. Good ones will not want to sit around very long in meetings. They want to serve.
The new board members also begin to feel like a valued member of the team. Team-building is often overlooked or underutilized as a step in new board formation. When several new directors begin their service, it is wise to create meaningful, team-building opportunities so the new group can get to know each other and gel as a board.
4. Promotes Healthy Board Room Discussions
If new directors feel like they are a valued member of the team, they will also meaningfully add to board discussions. Provide them with the knowledge they need to engage. Once trained and informed, they will feel equipped to serve and develop an emotional ownership in the agency.
Boardroom discussions are not just between the few “insiders.” Healthy and vigorous discussions and debate are promoted among all directors. Occasionally new directors get overshadowed by current ones who are only too happy to control board discussions and steer the board into their preferred direction.
Sometimes this happens inadvertently but it causes damage to the culture of the board. By equipping new directors with the knowledge they need quickly, this can be avoided.
5. Teaches Correct Procedures, Processes, and Policies
Board training helps new members understand how things work and how things get done properly. The first few board meetings for a new director can seem very strange, maybe even uncomfortable as they drive to find a way to grow into the board. By sharing the “ins and outs” of how things get done, the new director can quickly become comfortable in his/her new board environment.
How beneficial would it be if new directors stepped up quickly in areas like: helping with fundraising, coming to meetings prepared, asking good questions yet staying out of day-to-day management issues, demonstrating the moral courage to respectfully speak truth when needed? I’m guessing it would be very beneficial to your agency.
As you can see, there are significant benefits to your board and your agency when you provide new director orientation and periodic board refresher training. The time investment is minimal and the benefits are huge.
Need help setting up your board for success? Check out these 20 Steps to a Better 1st Board Meeting to make sure your new board members start off on the right foot.