The saying goes, “if you have one new board member you have an entirely new board.” This statement can be very true, whether you have a board of five people or a board of thirty. Just one new member can change the dynamics dramatically. Why is this?
New board members bring with them many benefits including, passion, motivation, new ideas & new perspectives. That is not to say that current board members do not also possess these same qualities but when new people appear, they are rejuvenated in everybody. A breath of fresh air is introduced into the board that can enhance how seasoned board members think or perform their duties. New board members can help bring the focus back to the mission of the non-profit if it has swayed under the pressure of daily maintenance activities.
New board members can also bring challenges. They have yet to be indoctrinated into the mechanics of how the organization is run or how the board performs its work. They have yet to experience first-hand the workings of the non-profit, which at times can seem complex. This is especially true if new members have a limited understanding of the industry, organization, or if they have no prior experience serving on a board. New board member passion is important but they need to understand the rules of the non-profit if they are to work within it efficiently.
The question for organizations & boards is how to develop ways for new members to gain these understandings quickly so that time is spent on the passionate pursuit of the mission instead of background and procedures. One suggestion is the use of a Board Member Manual. The manual can support new board members by becoming a permanent reference tool that members can use to manage and track their work. The manual will focus on two important areas, the organization and the board.
Below we have provided you a general outline for your Board Member Manual. This is just a starting point and should be modified as appropriate for your organization & board.
I. About the Organization
A. History of the Industry
1.FAQs about the Industry
B. History of the Organization
4.Key historical events of the organization
5.Key decisions of the organization
a) Articles of Incorporation
c) Conflict of interest policy
d) Tax documents
e) Insurance information
1) Directors and Officers Liability policy
C. Strategic Plan
4.Staff contact information w/ hours of availability
E. Programs & Events
G. Organization Talking Points
II. About the Board
1.Job description w/ time commitments
3.Vice chair responsibilities
C. Board Member Information
3.Code of conduct
4.Board member agreement
E. Board Meetings
1.Roberts Rules of Order
F. Membership Meetings