At this time of year, many organizations say good-bye to some board members and welcome their replacements. Some of you are thinking, “Our out-going board members can never really be replaced,” others are looking forward to the change, “Yes! We need some fresh blood in here. How quickly can the new board members start?” Either way, no one can really be an ideal new board member without a bit of guidance, coaching, and a lot of information sharing.
When a new employee starts at an organization, they often spend a couple of weeks or months learning the way the organization works and then seeing how they can make an impact. That’s five days a week of dedicated focus for weeks or months. If you wait for a board member to “get up to speed” on their own, it can take months if not a year during which you will have lost their potential, their help and possibly their interest. And an hour of welcome at a board orientation session won’t be enough.
Transition time gives you the opportunity to set expectations. You can remind new—as well as old—board members of what you do and how you do it, all while exciting them about serving on your board. This is the time to let them understand why you work so hard and how they can share the load. When you set their expectations in this initial phase, they will know what their next steps should be. They can sign up for committees, attend a retreat, or meet with a mentor (who will then follow up and check in on a regular basis over the first few months). You do not have to sugar coat the work. Instead, emphasize to these new board members why they signed on and get them involved from day 1. If you skip this all-important step, you could lose them for the duration. And then, you will be wondering how long it is until you can ask them to step off. And that seems like a very inefficient and ineffective circle for a nonprofit.
For more tips on how you can improve your board, read our book, How You Can Engage New Board Members. Purchase your copy today or just learn more by clicking here.