Board Induction is essential to ensuring that new Board members become productive contributors to the nonprofit Board as quickly as possible.
A well designed Board induction process will help to ensure that new Board members are aware of their roles and responsibilities and to understand the nonprofit organization’s objectives and operations. It will assist new Board members to more easily grasp the processes, procedures and aims of the organization, which will in turn help to boost their confidence and decision making.
Most induction programs for Board members only include a series of organizational papers. These papers typically include the constitution, board minutes, organizational charts, the last annual report, strategic plan, governance policies and procedures, maybe a governance handbook, and possibly copies of the past financial statements. The major problem with this type of induction program is that it almost solely relies on the nonprofit Director reading masses of information that are primarily historical in nature. Whilst these documents are essential to bring the director up to speed with information, there is also the risk that the director will not be ready to contribute to the discussions and decision making of the nonprofit Board. This unwillingness to contribute can often be attributed to the director feeling they do not understand the culture of the Board, or that they are unsure of what they need to know or ask.
A more strategic and conscious Governance Induction program focuses on the key behaviors and attributes that are required to be a conscious and aware Board member who truly adds value to the nonprofit Board. It focuses on the key elements that are required by the Board for the director to add value. It introduces the notion of being a conscious leader by inviting the director to increase their awareness as a leader, and by providing tools for them to choose this increased awareness and enhanced decision making. The process of decision making is explained, and the types of values and expectations of the Board are highlighted. The key roles of the Board are discussed and what these mean in terms of expectations of the director. The key legal requirements of the director are discussed, and particularly what this means in terms of behaviour and expectations of the Board. The induction program should also include the facility for the director to self-assess their knowledge in key areas, and to seek further clarification and knowledge where needed.
A number of Board induction programs include a mentor system, where a new director is mentored for the first 12 months with a director who has been on that Board for a number of years. Sometimes a senior staff person is allocated as staff mentor. The organizationally experienced mentor assists the new director to quickly grasp the key values and decision-making processes of the Board, and provides feedback to assist the new director in contributing from the very first Board meeting.
Questions to ask your Board about Board Induction
- Do we have a formal Board induction program?
- What are the key expectations of the Board?
- What are the critical documents I must read in the first three months?
- Does the Board have a formal mentor system to assist new directors?
- Who are the key people I need to meet?