After leading a comprehensive process to identify and recruit new board members you found your best candidates and they agreed to join your board. You looked forward to working with them and six months ago you could not have been more excited as they were installed on the board for their 3-year terms. They were passionate about your mission and had been loyal volunteers and generous donors for quite a while. It all seemed so promising…
But now you’re wondering what happened. After all that work, how is it that each of the new directors had become such huge disappointments? They just sat there during your first few board meetings and barely ever spoke. You eagerly asked each one to serve on one of your board committees, but had recently learned none of them had been particularly helpful while serving on them.
So you ask yourself, ‘What happened’?
Well, I suspect you are experiencing two powerful ICK FACTORS that are keeping your directors from performing up to expectations. They are:
- ICK FACTOR #6-Disengaged board members
- ICK FACTOR #7-Board members who do not deliver
Unfortunately, these problems exist on too many nonprofit boards even though they are solvable when the right steps are taken. However, corrective action has to be taken quickly and before the new directors turn these behaviors into unchangeable bad habits.
New board members, especially those who have never served on any board, need a couple of things early on in their board service from the executive director and board chair:
- Clarity on what is expected of them while serving. Why were they recruited in the first place? What does the board hope to gain from their service?
- Guidance on how the board works. What written and unwritten protocols and understandings exist? A new board member needs to know these so he/she can quickly feel comfortable, fit in, and begin contributing at board and committee meetings.
- A formal and comprehensive board orientation process, which should be outlined in a New Director Board Orientation and Training Manual, and a Board Policy Manual.
- Encouragement to step up and join board and committee discussions as soon as possible. If they sit through several meetings without speaking, they should be informally encouraged, privately, to feel free and jump in whenever they feel they have something to contribute.
- Assignment of a senior board member to serve as a mentor/director to the new one. This mentor/director becomes the go-to resource for the new member regarding anything they need help with, such as background information on issues, how things operate at the agency, etc.
If executive directors and board chairs take these five steps with new directors, it is almost certain your new directors will hit the ground running and begin contributing immediately. To learn more about overcoming the ICK FACTORS check out the new book Break Through the ICK FACTORS of Nonprofit Leadership.
Share below on what other steps you take to engage you new directors quickly so they become valuable contributors to the board as soon as possible?