Have you recently recruited a new board member? If so, congratulations! That’s amazing news for you and your nonprofit.
However, recruitment is only one part of building an effective board. So, what do you do once you recruit them? You hold a board member orientation and make sure they’re equipped to help you move your nonprofit’s mission forward.
Below, I’ll highlight a few things you should cover in that board member orientation.
1. Your nonprofit’s mission, vision, and values
Always start your orientation by communicating your nonprofit’s mission, vision, and values. They should be aware of these already—it’s likely what inspired them to join the board—but these are important enough to cover again. Some organizations even have their nonprofit board recite the mission statement before each meeting to remind everyone of the organization’s purpose.
As a reminder your mission statement should answer some simple questions:
- What do you do? Keep this straightforward and free from industry jargon. It should be as specific as possible.
- How do you do it? This is where you can communicate your core values and how they inform how you do the work that you do. Again, get specific here! Donors shouldn’t wonder how their dollars will be used.
- Why do you do it? This should speak to the purpose and passion behind the mission.
2. Your nonprofit’s branding
In order to promote and raise funds for your nonprofit, board members need the right assets. That’s why you should provide them with up-to-date branding information and fundraising materials from the start of their tenure.
In order to build trust with supporters, your branding needs to be consistent. This means the language you use in your elevator pitch, on your website, and in your communications materials should sound like it comes from one organization. The same goes for your visuals. Make sure everyone knows what your nonprofit colors are and which photos and videos they can use.
3. Your nonprofit’s history
Again, your board members have probably heard this before, but it’s important that they know your nonprofit’s history inside and out. Why? It’ll help them communicate how your nonprofit has grown and used funds raised in the past to create a big impact.
With that in mind, give your board members information on how the nonprofit was formed and why. This is another place to reiterate the mission.
In addition to the how and why, you should make sure they know who started the organization and their reason for doing so. If there’s information that the board should know about the past that influences where your nonprofit is now and where you want to go in the future, make sure you cover it in the orientation.
4. Where your nonprofit is at now
Your board needs to know what they’re walking into and how they can help. That’s why you should share your nonprofit’s most important stats and data with them.
Here are just a few questions you can answer for them:
- What is your annual revenue?
- What do the financials look like?
- How much is your organization raising each year?
- What is your donor retention rate?
- What programs and campaigns do you have in place and which ones are successful? Which ones need to be tweaked?
- What impact is your nonprofit having on your beneficiaries?
- How are you communicating that impact?
- What committees are in place to help you meet your goals?
5. Where you want your nonprofit to go in the future
Now that you’ve established where your nonprofit has been and what the current state of affairs is, it’s time to look toward the future. What are your goals? What will it take to achieve them?
Once you communicate your goals, tell your board members what role they should play to help you get to where you want to be. Be specific as possible! Your members shouldn’t wonder how they’ll help you achieve your goals; they walk away with clear next steps on how to do so.
If you know what your board members’ strengths and interests are, assign them tasks that align with those; this will help set them up for success. If you haven’t asked your board members what they’re skilled at and how they’d like to be involved, find out ASAP and assign them tasks accordingly. After all, giving your members meaningful work is one of the best ways to create a strong, effective board.
Bonus: Here are two tips for making sure your board is effective over time.
There are a few things you can do to make sure your board members stay primed for success when it comes to growing your nonprofit’s impact.
1. Assign a mentor.
Ask a veteran board member to mentor a new board member. Not only will this help foster better relationships and a sense of community, but it will also help free up some staff time when newer board members know who to go to for questions or concerns.
2. Ask for feedback.
After the board orientation, ask for feedback. You should regularly ask your board members what questions or concerns they have or what feedback they’d like to share. The better informed they are, the better able they’ll be to accomplish their goals.
Lastly, remember that your board member orientation isn’t limited to new board members. If you have current members who feel a bit lost or confused, invite them to attend in an effort to re-engage and reassure them. It’s a great solution to make sure everyone is on the same page, which is key for running an effective board.