Orientation and Onboarding: Who Does What? Part II

board development and revitalization roles and responsibilities Feb 20, 2023
Orientation and Onboarding: Who Does What? Part II


We started last week with some key outcomes (start with the end in mind!) and content areas.


Now, who does what? Your new member has a responsibility to show up and ask questions!


Here are a few key pieces:


1. Meet Formally with the Chief Executive Officer.

Note that each not-for-profit organization has a Chief Executive Officer (CEO) but many prefer to use a different term due to connotations of “corporate” or “business”. The term Executive Director is often used. But remember, you still have a Chief Officer, CEO for short, like it or not.

Each organization’s onboarding practice is different. Sadly, responsibility often rests with the CEO, but the Chair should at least be involved, presenting together at one session or two separate sessions.

Board officers and committee chairs can also present and take questions on relevant topics while enabling newcomers to get to know colleagues on the board as well as the special roles they may play. Is there a mentoring program for new board members?


Here are a few unique areas for the CEO:


  • “Backstage Pass” Introduction and Overview of Operations. Behind the public areas. Your new members should ask questions about departments and personnel, in order to understand, not manage.
  • Introduction to the Executive/Management Team. What they do. Perhaps particular strengths and interests, to get to know them better as people.
  • Overview of “The Binder.” Ask operational questions. Understand the history.
  • The Budget Process and Roles. Relationship with the primary funder(s).
  • Key Success Factors. How do you measure the success of programs and services and of the organization as a whole? Are cost-benefit and cost-effectiveness analyses used? How?
  • Your Sector. Who are your comparators? Aspirators? Why? What would high performance look like? How does the organization monitor the sector to stay current?
  • Current Big Issues in the Sector.


2. Meet Formally with the Board Chair. Here are a few areas for the Board Chair:


  • The Board’s Role. Grey Areas. Governance vs . Operations. How do you navigate the grey areas (“in the weeds”). What is your primary purpose?
  • The Partnership with the How do we support the CEO? How do we respectfully disagree? Where are the main areas of difference of opinion or approach? No, it is not impolite, it just “is”. Or ask privately…
  • Relationship with the CEO. What are the criteria for performance evaluation? When, how, who?
  • Legislative Frameworks. Legal responsibilities. Is there a specific Act?
  • Composition. Structure. Process. Get new board members to state interest in particular committees.
  • Role Elaboration. In Labour Relations. In Health and Safety. In Risk Management.
  • Political/influence Acumen. How can members be more “outward facing” in listening to the community, in influencing and in fund development. How should they liaise with funders? How do they liaise with elected officials? Who talks to whom? (Relationships can be at peril if there are missteps.)

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  • Board Member Role. Sign necessary forms: agreements, conflict of interest.
  • Board Policy. How is it reviewed? By whom? When? How do you deal with policy development rather than the issue of the moment?
  •  Strategic plan. Why does it exist? What was the source of evidence for directions and objectives? How is it overseen and reviewed? Who is responsible and what is the schedule for reporting on its implementation? 
  • How do members know what they are being asked to do? Is the item for discussion only or for a decision? Are options presented? Are rules used to facilitate decision-making or as a “weapon”?
  • Risk Management. What have been the issues if any? Who on the board is most competent in finance? Who on the staff is responsible? How do members develop greater financial literacy? Are there any recent legal disputes or lawsuits of which they should be aware? Has the organization’s D&O (Directors and Officers) liability insurance been invoked in the past few years?
  • Key Board Accomplishments.
  • Recent issues.
  • Current Big Issues. What is on the horizon?


3. Review of Agenda of the Next Board Meeting.


The Board Chair outlines the upcoming board meeting agenda so new members have a preview of significant items to be discussed and the common approaches used in decision-making.


So, that is “orientation” with some “onboarding.” But you will want to ensure ongoing board development is incorporated in each meeting.


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.


Complement and reinforce your onsite program today!

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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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