With the end of the calendar/fiscal year approaching, many nonprofit boards will be undergoing important change. New directors are coming and term-expired directors will be leaving. Thank you to both groups for your service.

Change is never easy but it is necessary and this one is critical to your nonprofit’s long term health and sustainability. Hopefully you, as board chair or executive director, have in place both a written Board Policy Manual and a formalized New Director Orientation Program to help “on-board” these new members. All well and good, but even with these important tools in place, it may not be enough.

I’ve been thinking about my experiences while serving on my first board or two–more specifically–what I was thinking as everyone welcomed me to the team. Here are a few thoughts to consider when your new directors first show up to begin their term of service. Do you have plans to address these unspoken thoughts?

  1. I wonder how long I should hold my tongue before speaking up at meetings on topics I care about or consider myself knowledgeable
  2. It would be helpful if they assigned to me a currently seated “mentor-director” as my go-to person so I can get up to speed on things without slowing down meetings or looking “dumb”
  3. I wonder what they specifically are expecting of me in the coming year aside from attending all the meetings and making donations
  4. I wonder just how open this board is to authentic dialogue and honest disagreement?
  5. What specifically can I do to bring the most value to this organization over the next 3-6 months?

What other unspoken questions and thoughts do you think new directors bring onto the board?