One of the most important jobs of organizational leadership is to ensure that board members have the right amount of information to ensure that they can–and will–carry out their fiduciary responsibilities and make the best contribution they can. Summertime, when many organizations begin a new fiscal year but perhaps scale back their activities, is the perfect time to make that happen.
Although in general I support providing documents digitally wherever possible, I’m a big fan of the comprehensive board notebook. This gives trustees a place to organize their information, adding documents as needed, taking notes at meetings, and using as a reference during and between meetings. The notebook should be issued immediately after the individual is elected so that they will have time to review and bring their questions to the board orientation. Going through the notebook page-by-page at the orientation is a real buzzkill at a time you want to generate excitement for their service.
The orientation is the point at which the organization has the best opportunity to tell new board members exactly what the group needs from them–and also to learn what the newbie wants out of their board tenure. Interactivity and getting to know one another is key! Critically, each individual must come away with a clear understanding of their roles and responsibilities, particularly the legal requirements of board membership.
Here’s some further reading on effective orientations. Do it–a little time invested now will make a huge difference in the long run.