Orientation and Onboarding: Who Does What? Part I

board development and revitalization oversight and accountability: measurement roles and responsibilities Feb 13, 2023
Orientation and Onboarding: Who Does What? Part I


It’s that time of year!


Orientation and onboarding of new board members. What is your plan? What’s on your checklist? Who does what? Who is accountable? How?


Let’s start with your key outcomes (start with the end in mind!). What are your expectations? Here are some considerations:

You want new board members to have the competence and confidence necessary to participate fully at the beginning of their term, including the courage to speak up and ask questions.


They will know – at the outset -- the basics of:

  • Your Context (the organization’s background, direction, leadership, and operations);
  • The Board’s role, governance as leadership, and board processes.
  • How You Learn Together and Continue to Improve.
  • How You Work Together and Make Decisions for the Good of Your Community.


New Board Member Checklist. The purpose of any orientation or onboarding of a new board member is to ensure that a new board member:

  • Understands the organization’s vision, mission, and values, as well as its unique position in your community (however defined);
  • Knows the basics of how the organization operates (funding, services, staffing);
  • Can speak to a few key accomplishments and areas of impact;
  • Recognizes the role and responsibilities of the Board and their role, particularly legally, fiscally, and with regard to our one employee, the CEO (Chief Executive Officer or Executive Director);
  • Knows the schedule and location for regular board meetings; schedule and means for delivery of agenda packages; expectations for participation in board committees, board development, and organization activities, e.g., special events, fundraising
  • Feels confident and ready to contribute at your first meeting!


Before Now! Prior to appointment or election, your board member should:

  • Review the Mission and Vision of the Organization. Do they resonate with them?
  • Review the Values of the Organization. Are they consistent with theirs?
  • Understand their “fit” with the organization, their motivation for stepping forward, and the nature of the contribution they hope to make.
  • Realize that they are not doing you a favor by volunteering and participating: they are taking on a job to make a contribution to the quality of life in your community.


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Any preliminary questions should be answered prior to the appointment at a session for interested candidates.


Before Your Formal Orientation

Each organization is a unique social culture. New members should understand the unique characteristics of your organization and its governing board before they begin their work.


They should receive “the binder” (print or electronic) once they are appointed or elected to the Board.


These documents will be included for their review (in most cases available online):


About the organization--

  • Vision. Values.
  • Brief History. Interesting Factoids. Key accomplishments.
  • Organizational Chart. Key staff. Contact information.
  • Strategic Plan. Ask how it was developed and how implementation is monitored.
  • Current Budget and Financial Statements.
  • Annual reports, including accomplishments, plans, and financials.


About the Board—

  • Current Board Members. Biographies. Photos. Write yours if not yet done.
  • Board Roles and Responsibilities. Nature of the partnership with the Chief Executive Officer (Governance vs. Operations). There should be a policy!
  • Board Member Role and Job Description. Duty of care. Of diligence. Of loyalty.
  • Member Oath of Office and Agreements (role, attendance, participation, confidentiality, time commitment, etc.). In-camera (executive/private) vs. public (open) sessions and reporting. They should be ready to question as necessary and sign.
  • Board organization. Committees and Terms of Reference. Chairs and members. They should determine their preferences. Be prepared to serve.
  • Policies, procedures, and bylaws. Know the difference.
  • Conflict of Interest Policy. Be prepared to declare.
  • Recent meeting minutes.
  • Board Calendar. Meetings. Events. Mark your calendar!


Agenda for the First Board Meeting. The Chair should guide new members through this at the formal orientation session.


Next week we propose roles for the Chief Executive Officer and Chair.

Remember, the Chair is the primary player, not the Chief Executive Officer.


Would you really ask your employee to provide an orientation to their role as the employer? Get real!


What are your main “pain points” dealing with orientation and onboarding?

What advice would be most helpful to you?
And we always assume that you are asking for a friend!


Get in touch. We’ll address your questions and concerns in an upcoming blog post.


Time to step up, Board Chair!

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P.S. May I ask a tiny favour? Would you mind sharing this blog with one person? I would love it. You can post the links in your Facebook Groups, LinkedIn or even send an email.

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