Nonprofit Network Blog

Board Orientation is not a task - it is a process

Tuesday, July 01, 2014 1:31 PM | Deleted user

By Regina Funkhouser

A fully engaged, active board doesn’t happen organically.  It takes deliberate acts, concentrated efforts, planning and lots of behind the scenes work to create a board that understands their role and takes governance seriously.  

Recognize that board orientation is not a task – it is a process Handing a new board member a 3 inch binder with every policy, procedure, itemized budget and marketing piece from the last five years and going through it page by page is not orientation, it’s torture.  I’m not saying never provide these items, I’m just saying that especially in the beginning, less is more and quality before quantity. Even if a new board member read every ream of paper you gave them, they cannot possibly retain or apply the knowledge. This practice will only overwhelm a new board member.  It may take 18 months before a board member has been through a complete cycle of your budget process, your planning process, your evaluation process and committee process.  Recognize that ongoing training to apply knowledge is critical to the ability to participate fully as a board member.  If we continue to expect a new board member to “get it” after three months, we create a group of people who collectively think “I must be the only one who doesn't understand this because I’m new, so I will remain mute and allow others to make decisions.”

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