The Importance of On-boarding for Boards

Training sessions onboarding for board members

7 Effective Ways to Get the Most out of New Board Members

Orientation and On-Boarding Process is necessary to not only retain board members, but also to make certain that they have the knowledge and skills to meet their board member duties.

Did you ever start a job with no training, without knowing any other co-worker, or really very much about the company and on your first day you are just told to start working? Unfortunately, many of us have had that experience, at least once, when expectations are not defined, no one takes the time to introduce us to our co-workers, there is no real job description and all of a sudden you are supposed to know exactly what to do and when to do it! It is almost impossible to succeed in that type of environment. So, therefore, why do most non-profits take that approach with new board members?

After all of the work recruiting a new board member, do you do enough to make sure new board members are effective?

How OrgBoosters can help:

Our work at OrgBoosters includes not only working with Executive level and direct staff members, but we also focus on helping organizations build a strong board through customized board trainings. On area that consistently needs improvements for boards is the On-boarding process.

Many boards spend considerable time recruiting board members but limited time orienting new board members to the organization or providing on-going training. Imagine you are a first time board member there is so much to know! There are governance policies and procedures, fiduciary responsibilities, as well as the three primary legal duties known as the “duty of care,” “duty of loyalty,” and “duty of obedience” to know and all the while being expected to make informed decisions about the organization and vote on matters that impact staff and agency clients as well as the board.

Many boards do not have regular board trainings or a detailed orientation for new board members. Yet, on-boarding is critical to boards and covers not only the initial orientation to the board, but it also can, and should, provide ongoing training for all board members, new and existing. It is the conventional wisdom of “An Ounce of Prevention is Worth a Pound of Cure” that can be applied here for boards so that members can enhance the mission of the non-profit.

There are seven basic things that can make on-boarding easier:

1. Trainers-Designate a team of board or board and staff members who will create the content for on-boarding and deliver it, you don’t want this to start and then not be implemented or continued, get a training plan for the year and follow it.

2. Orientation-Provide regular training and a new orientation for board members as part of the on-boarding. Be sure to have training for seasoned board members as well as training for new board members.

3. The ABC’s of the Non-Profit-Orientation on-boarding training should include an overview of the organization and how the board works- mission, responsibilities, board member job description, and the ABC’s of governance should be included in the orientation.

4. Fiduciary-Include a separate track of training on fiduciary responsibilities and fundraising. Be sure fiscal reports and formats are reviewed along with audits and financial statements. Any required fundraising should also be spelled out in this training.

5. Board Manual-Create a manual for new board members so that all of the information they need is in one portal or in one paper document-include all of the necessary governance items, program and agency information and outcomes, and contact information for board members.

6. Mentors-Consider creating a mentor or having a new board member paired with an existing board member so they can easily ask questions or attend events together as they start to take on their board member responsibilities.

7. Evaluate-Design an evaluation for the on-boarding and training so that the board can receive feedback on process and make adjustments so that it works for all and can be sustained.
On-boarding takes the mystery away of what a board member is supposed to do and replaces it with a process that builds a positive culture and a connected network to support the organization. Orientation and ongoing training is necessary for an effective and functioning board. If it is board or staff, an on-boarding process will help any non-profit build a stronger agency.

Contact us:

If you need help with onboarding new board members for your nonprofit here in NJ, give us a call at 908-574-0883 or email us at

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