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The average person will spend one-third of their life either at work or working remotely. That is roughly 90,000 hours spent away from family, exercise, or personal hobbies. Employees are catching on. 

Today’s workforce requires a sense of belonging. They want to know that their values align with the organization’s and to see themselves in the diverse co-workers they work with,

As harsh as this might sound, there are no second chances at first impressions. Organizations get one shot at providing a positive board member onboarding experience. Why does this matter? Board members can be the biggest determinant of an organization’s success and you need their buy-in. So why not treat board member orientation as seriously as employee onboarding?

Most of us know what poor onboarding looks like. An HR representative forgets your first day, it takes three weeks for your email to be set up and you have no idea who your direct report is. If you’re lucky, an HR representative gives you an orientation schedule and reads employee policy aloud until you forget why you accepted the job. This type of introduction leaves the newcomer feeling a lack of commitment to the organization from the start. 

The same idea applies to board member onboarding. It takes time and forethought to provide a good first impression and even more intentionality to leave your board feeling wowed. At SchermCo, we help organizations identify the values they want to portray from the moment a new board candidate is interviewed. We are about offering tangible interventions to help you create strong board member engagement from the get-go. 

Below are some practical tips to board member onboarding that our team identifies as crucial methods for starting off on the right foot. 


  1. Is Your Board Member Orientation Inclusive? 
  • Effective board member onboarding involves more than just the Board Chair. We encourage the orientation process to be divided into several in person sessions focusing on topics such as organizational structure, financials, bylaws, etc. 
  • Pull other members of the organization into the process to allow the new board member to become acquainted with his/her peers. For example, invite the Board Treasurer to lead a working lunch on organizational finances and the Board Secretary to review meeting schedules. Encourage the Executive Director to give a tour of the organization and arrange for a program visit. 
  • Ask each member of the board to share why they have made a personal commitment to serve the organization.


  1. Do You Surprise Your Board Members in Orientation? 
  • Close the loop on the interview process and tell the board member why he/she was chosen to join the board. This simple gesture helps to communicate the board members’ perceived strengths and leads them to understand how they can be most effective while serving the organization. It also helps your candidates feel valued from the start.
  • Take your new board members out for coffee or lunch to establish rapport. Solidifying a relationship with your board members will enable smoother communication and increase board member buy-in.  
  1. Do You Empower Your Board Members from Day One? 
  • Help your board members identify their networks by encouraging them to write a rough list of all their professional and/or personal contacts. Most of us have a larger scope of influence than we realize and it takes coaching to understand how to authentically tap into it. 
  • Create a Board Member Fundraising Toolkit focused on engaging small networks to assist board members with exceeding give/get expectations. 


  1. Do You Communicate Board Member Expectations? 
  • During the first few onboarding sessions, board members should hear the organization’s values and board goals more than once. This is the Board Chair’s opportunity to communicate expectations and solidify the board member relationship. 
  • Invite the new board member to write down his/her own goals at the end of the onboarding experience. 
  • Create an Exit Ticket for the new board member to complete at the end of orientation and gather feedback on the process. 


Sound simple enough? While these tasks are small in scale, once applied, they can make a lasting difference in board member culture. SchermCo works with teams across the U.S to implement effective board strategy through practical intervention. 

Not thrilled with your current board member onboarding practices? Let us know by contacting Alex at alex@scherm.co to schedule a time to chat.

Action Steps

  • Create a Board Member Matrix outlining the hard and soft skills that make up your board. Examples include corporate fundraiser, community influencer, finance expert, program executive, human resources professional, visionary, and communicator. 
  • Remember to also assess your board’s diversity by including age, race, and gender demographics on your Board Member Matrix.
  • Review your matrix and identify gaps in board member demographics, skill sets, and areas of influence. 
  • Work with your Governance Committee to create a board member candidate list and identify candidates that could fill the identified skill gaps. Outline your onboarding process to include your favorite tips mentioned above.