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Ensuring an Effective Nonprofit Board: Onboarding and What to Expect When Joining a Board

Nonprofit organizations tend to exist to uplift communities and defend humanitarian causes. While their objectives are typically pure, members sometimes abuse power and misuse assets. This usually happens because of ignorance and a lack of the relevant qualifications of some board members.

In this article, we will discuss what must transpire in the onboarding phase of new board members. Additionally, we will cover what new board members should expect when joining the board of a nonprofit organization.

Onboarding a New Board Member

The earliest interactions between a board and new members set the tone for what is expected from a new member. Here are some things that organizations should do to set a new board member off on the right foot:

Develop a New Member Welcome Package

When onboarding a new member, it is vital that they have all the information they need to be successful. A welcome package is one of the best ways to achieve this. This package or packet should contain background information on the organization, special messages from key leaders of the organization, a brief as to the current initiatives and mission of the board, and any other relevant information.

Assign an Accountability Partner

While a welcome package is excellent, assigning a credible member of the board to guide a new board member fast tracks the orientation process. This member will serve as an initial mentor and resource person as the new member settles into their role. The board must carefully handle the selection process for accountability partners. Take into consideration personality types, availability, age, and work ethic.

Clarify Expectations and Train New Members to Tackle Responsibilities

A new member must be made aware of his expectations and responsibilities. An effective welcome package will have these details, but a session or multiple sessions must be held to clarify expectations and responsibilities. These sessions should also be designed to offer training to new members to carry out their tasks effectively.

What to Expect as You Join a New Nonprofit Board

Working with a nonprofit organization can be fulfilling. Knowing that the time you are investing will lead to the upliftment of others can solidify a sense of purpose. As you join a new board, there are some things that you should keep in mind.

1. Beware of the temptation to overcommit

The noble cause that your nonprofit has been established to tackle will have many tasks to be done. The generosity within you may draw you to take on more than you can handle. Be sure that you evaluate your existing professional and personal obligations before making commitments.

2. Diligent preparation is expected

As you join the nonprofit organization's board, you will be expected to be prepared for each meeting. Bear in mind that, unfortunately, some organizations are not as diligent as they should be in providing the tools and information for you to be prepared. In light of this, you will need to be proactive and ensure that you are in the know at all times.

3. Avoid being drowned out by ‘louder voices’

‘Louder voices’ refers to individuals with significant influence on the board. While these seasoned leaders will naturally have a lot to say, you have a responsibility to speak your mind. As a board member, your comments or the lack thereof can lead the organization closer to its goal or closer to destruction.

Members of a nonprofit board must handle the organization's business with diligence. Existing board members, and more specifically, the chair, must be thorough in ensuring that they recruit the right talent. Prospective board members should also ensure that they have the relevant skills and commitment to lead at this level effectively.

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