Failure to thoroughly orient a new board member often leads to the downfall of the nonprofit executive.

CEO Dale Morrissey (Champaign, Ill., DMorrissey@dsc-illinois.org) uses this five-prong approach to start new board members off on good footing:

  1. Present a board manual. “We have a very comprehensive board manual,” said Morrissey. “Each board member receives a copy and we keep it updated.”
  2. The board manual covers topics such as: the organization’s history, mission, philosophy, program descriptions, a board member list with contact information, committee assignments and descriptions, an organizational chart, a copy of the budget, the bylaws, and policies and procedures.

  3. The chair and CEO should meet with the new member. “The current president and I meet jointly with the new member to review the board manual and outline the responsibilities of being a board member,” said Morrissey.
  4. Participating in the orientation together shows the new member that the board and management are on the same page, he said. “It gives us an opportunity to clarify the board’s functions and role versus management’s,” Morrissey said.

  5. Offer mentor guidance. Morrissey said the mentor program is informal, but a veteran board member is assigned to the new member.
  6. Provide program tours. Program directors meet new board members and provide an individual tour. “This way, new board members get to know other leaders in the organization and receive a better idea of what services and supports we offer,” he said.
  7. Follow up. “I also make follow-up calls every few weeks and months to make sure the new member is getting the support they need to function as a productive board member,” Morrissey said.