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  • Writer's pictureAlec Green

Onboarding New Nonprofit Board Members: 4 Key Steps to Ensure a Successful Transition

When new members join a nonprofit board, it's important to have a clear understanding of the role and the expectations of them as a board member. Board members are responsible for ensuring the organization is fulfilling its mission and meeting its goals. In order to help new board members hit the ground running, there are several key steps you can take to ensure a successful transition.

In this blog post, we will discuss four key steps to onboarding new nonprofit board members: providing a general overview of the roles and responsibilities of all nonprofit board members, creating a new board member orientation packet detailing your organization's history, mission, key programs, and stories of impact, providing structured opportunities to meet with other board members and key staff, and assigning a key project the new board member can "own" to sink their teeth into the nonprofit's operations and strategy.

Let's look at each of these in more detail.

1. General Overview of Nonprofit Board Member Roles and Responsibilities

It is important to provide a general overview of nonprofit board member roles and responsibilities to new board members, both for the purposes of educating them on their new positions within the organization and also for the purposes of ensuring that they are aware of their legal responsibilities that go along with being on a board. The Nonprofit Board Member Essentials courses are an easy, effective way to provide this more general orientation on board member responsibilities.

2. Provide a new board member orientation packet detailing your organization's history, mission, key programs, and stories of impact

Your organization's history helps provide a good foundation for future board members to learn more about the community their organization works in or serves. The mission lays out why the organization exists and what it is meant to accomplish. Key programs explain which efforts the organization has chosen to prioritize and why, while stories of impact share the ways in which your organization has succeeded at meeting its mission. This information provides a great foundation for new board members, helping them get acclimated to their role with your nonprofit.

A new board member orientation packet is also useful because it keeps the organization's "story" consistent by helping to ensure that all members have a thorough understanding of your nonprofit. It also helps solve any confusion about the organization and its goals, as well as provides a handy resource for future reference.

3. Provide structured opportunities for new nonprofit board members to build relationships with other board members and key staff

New board members are more likely to contribute their full potential towards fulfilling the mission of the organization if they feel supported by both fellow board members as well as the Executive Director. Consider assigning a “buddy” board member or mentor who, in addition to the Executive Director, can answer questions and help the new board member get up to speed.

In addition, a good idea would be to organize regular outings that all board officers participate in. A good way to provide this support is to organize board retreats, workshops, and conferences where new board members can meet other board members. This allows new members to get a better understanding of the board and how it operates. It also provides opportunities for individual board members to connect with one another, thus building interpersonal connections that can be used in case of future conflicts or challenges within the organization.

4. Give the new nonprofit board member a project to work on

After the new board member has had some time to learn about the organization and build relationships with the other board members, assigning them a new project is one of the best ways to increase their sense of engagement. Tap into their field of expertise and give them the opportunity to start contributing early on. The specifics of the project will depend on their background, interests, and the needs of the organization. Make sure the project is strategic in nature and not day-to-day work of the staff.

By following these four key steps, you can help new board members feel welcome and prepared to take on the important role of board member. And, in turn, this will help your nonprofit organization run more smoothly and achieve its goals.

Make sure your nonprofit board, employees, and volunteers all have the training they need to realize their potential. Check out all the free online courses and certificate programs including Nonprofit Board Member Essentials available in NonprofitReady today.


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