Being a new board member can feel both exciting and a touch daunting. For those that haven’t served before, they’re likely to encounter a learning curve and, therefore, will need some guidance. This is where incumbent members can step in to help bridge the gap by hosting a new member orientation!
By hosting an orientation, you can train new members and simultaneously build camaraderie between the current board. For ideas on topics to cover and fun ways to conduct the orientation, keep reading!
Board powers and responsibilities
Start the day building a foundation of knowledge for new members by discussing the fundamental elements of being a board member in your community. This includes answering questions like "What are the board powers under the governing documents?" and "What makes an effective board member?"
We also recommend reviewing the role of the board as a whole, in addition to the responsibilities of each board position. Not only will this inform the new members of their specific duties but also what other members are responsible for. This way, if they have a question about a specific area they don’t handle, they'll know who to ask.
After covering the basics, you can start to dive into more of the regular practices of being on the board, including the various types of meetings they’ll need to attend (e.g., community-wide vs. board only). This includes when and where they're held, what topics are generally discussed at each, and where to find necessary information for a meeting.
Use the "Documents" page type on your website to upload agendas and meeting minutes. Show new members where to find these on your website, so they have all of the information they need before or after a meeting.
Another helpful topic to communicate to new members is the current processes and systems your board has in place. This could include how votes are taken and weighed, the process for handling violations, and your system for gathering and addressing questions and feedback from the community. For new members that are responsible for recording and updating documentation, be sure to also review the process for how to do this and where to upload the information for others to view.
Reviewing these processes ahead of time should help reduce confusion for new members, curtail potential errors, and allow things to run efficiently within the group.
The last topic we recommend covering is one of the most important ones—community documents. To effectively administer your community, all current board members should be familiar with the important documents in your community. While there are various types of documents they’ll need to be aware of, we recommend at least reviewing the governing documents, like the ones listed below:
- Articles of Incorporation
- Rules & Regulations
Having this knowledge from the outset will not only help new board members excel in their role but will also enable them to act as a valuable resource to other members in the community when various scenarios arise.
Make it fun
Some of these topics can be a bit dry, and the last thing you want is the participating members to zone out and miss the important information you have to share. To keep their attention and help them better retain what they're learning, we recommend incorporating fun ways to teach and review the above information. Playing games can be a great way to do this! Below are some ideas of games you can play during the orientation:
- Ask board members to put on their acting caps and use a role-playing game to demonstrate how to handle certain scenarios.
- Test member knowledge with a game of Jeopardy! You can use a program like Microsoft PowerPoint or Apple Keynote to create a personalized game.
- Provide members with a small whiteboard & markers to write down answers to trivia questions throughout the orientation. For each question they get right, they get a point. Then, the member with the most points at the end of the orientation receives a special prize.
- Divide the members into teams of 2-4 people, and provide each team with a way to record answers (paper, whiteboard, tablet). Then, announce a topic (e.g., what responsibilities does the president have), and give the team 60 seconds to write down as many facts as they can for that topic. The team with the most correct facts wins a point!
Hosting a new board member orientation is a great way to incorporate new members into the group, educate them about being on the board, and how to perform effectively in their new role. By incorporating interactive games, you can add some fun to the process that will not only keep them engaged but also build camaraderie between the members.