2. Assign Board Buddies
Joining a nonprofit’s board can be intimidating, especially if someone has never served on a board or worked with a nonprofit before. They might be afraid to ask questions in front of experienced members, or they may feel out of the loop at first. Ease the pressure and help them navigate this new landscape by assigning each new member a board buddy.
A board buddy is a returning board member who helps the new member get up and running. Pairing newcomers up with a seasoned volunteer can eliminate any nerves of being the “new kid on the block.” Plus, it satisfies a common reason for joining a board: networking with peers.
Your board buddies should be prepared and ready to do the following:
- Meet with the new member one-on-one before the first official meeting.
- Touch base right before the first few meetings.
- Sync up virtually after board meetings to answer any questions.
If meetings are held in person, board buddies can go a step further by offering their partners a ride to the meeting, greeting them at the door, and sitting next to them in meetings. This can create a positive first impression of what it’s like to work with your organization.
Plus, this experience can be just as valuable and enjoyable for the mentor as well. It gives them an outlet to share their passion for your mission, effectively sparking more enthusiasm for their own work. They’ll also be conscious of the fact that they should set a positive example in meetings, which can directly impact their participation and performance.
3. Create a Welcome Packet
When welcoming new board members, documents are always part of the process. But boards produce a great deal of paperwork, and it can be overwhelming for new members if you throw too many documents their way all at once.
Instead of flooding new board members with confusing spreadsheets and lengthy documents, condense it down into a single packet. It might be difficult to cut through the clutter to find the most valuable resources to share. As a strong starting point, here’s what a complete welcome packet should include:
- History one-pager: This explains your nonprofit’s history and mission in-depth. Start by pulling information from your website’s “About Us” page, and then edit it to help your board members fully understand your current work.
- Board roles and responsibilities: This page reviews the specific duties that are assigned to each role, which helps board members quickly understand expectations. This guide goes into detail about the key responsibilities that you’ll want to cover.
- A copy of your organization’s bylaws: Your bylaws will help board members understand your nonprofit’s decision-making hierarchy and give them foundational knowledge of what they can (and can’t) do.
- Financial data: Include financial information like your annual budget or any recent nonprofit audit results. Knowing where your organization stands financially can inform board members’ decisions.
- A list of current members and leaders: Include brief bios, photos, and contact information for residing board members and current staff leaders.
- An events calendar: List any upcoming board meetings and events that board members are expected to attend. They’ll know to mark their calendars and make any adjustments to their schedules.
- A list of committees. Board members are typically expected to serve on committees, so describe your current committees and their corresponding duties. Include your committee members’ names and contact information as well.
Physical documents can quickly pile up and become cumbersome to carry around, so consider digitizing documents when you can. Check to see if your nonprofit board software makes it easy to upload and securely share documents.
Double the Donation’s review of nonprofit software explains that board software grants board members access to key documents so that they can work more effectively together. You can consolidate all key documents into one convenient location that they can easily reference at any time.
Because your board members volunteer their precious time to your organization, your nonprofit should be willing to provide extra help and resources from the start. Board members come from all sorts of backgrounds, and many don’t have prior experience working on a nonprofit board. Giving them everything they need upfront is crucial to make sure everyone’s on the same page and to set them up for success.
Now, it’s time to turn your new board members’ enthusiasm into actual progress for your nonprofit. Build a successful onboarding strategy, and the results will be well worth the extra effort. Good luck!