September 30, 2013
The relationship between an association’s staff and Board and committee members is so important for the organization’s success. After years of experience working with volunteers, Kellen Company team members have learned to nurture that relationship, and that often begins with a successful Board orientation.
Board orientations are so important because they provide a solid foundation for Board members, aligns the Board on the organization’s initiatives in the strategic plan and provides a context in regards to expectations. They also create an opportunity to ask questions in a non-threatening environment because questions are expected. If you don’t already conduct yearly Board orientations – or if you already do, but aren’t sure if you’re hitting on all of the key points – here are some examples of topics to include in your orientation:
- The history of association
- The Bylaws
- Structure or org chart of the staff, board, executive committee, legal counsel, etc.
- The different types of insurance that is needed for associations and why it’s important
- Board of Directors’ responsibilities and expectations. Make sure to note that the Board’s role should be more strategic than it is managerial. Explain that they can leave the day-to-day work to the staff
- Antitrust principles
- The organization’s strategic plan and key initiatives
- The organization’s financials and how they are structured. If a Board member doesn’t have a financial background, you may need to give a basic overview so they understand what they’re reading
- The three different types of audits and which type your organization utilizes
- Who does what on staff. If a Board member is new, they might appreciate being told, “If you have a question about X, you should call me. If you have a question about Y, call Carol.” It’s not always obvious who handles what projects, and you don’t want your Executive Director to start getting calls about simple membership renewals
- The organization’s code of conduct. Be clear about why every organization has one and what happens if it is violated
Giving a comprehensive overview will give your Board members all the information that they’ll need to have a productive, enjoyable term. Although some of your Board members might think they’ve heard it all before, this refresher on the organization and its goals is worth their time. I’ve found that it’s helpful to include legal counsel in the orientation because their presence can add an element of “importance” to the meeting.
What else do you include in your Board orientations? Do you have any other best practices?