How to Onboard New Board Members

7 min read
Jul 26, 2023 9:59:38 AM

In theory, the onboarding process may seem straightforward. Your board has carefully screened and recruited individuals who are seemingly most willing to go the extra mile for your organisation, then you welcome your new recruits with an onboarding meeting that covers all their duties, responsibilities, expectations and anything else they need to know regarding your organisation. From there, they’re all set to fulfil the duties and perform as you’d expect, right?

Not quite. Sometimes, board meetings can go awry, especially when confusion and uncertainty arise, particularly when board members don’t have a solid grasp of their expectations, the meetings’ objectives or even just the basic board processes. And, unsurprisingly, when new board members don’t fully comprehend what their new commitment entails, this can throw meetings off track.

This is why a comprehensive onboarding process with a clear objective that reduces the time necessary to get everyone up to speed is vital.

With that, the team at BoardPro has put their heads together to bring you this article filled with actionable onboarding advice. Drawing from our team members’ personal experience, all of whom have served on boards for years, we are confident that this guide will help you maximise the impact of your orientation.

This comprehensive onboarding guide is perfect for any modern board, regardless of the size of your organisation, that wants to create a seamless, valuable onboarding experience for new board members.

Below, you can expect five steps, details about BoardPro’s tools and a bonus checklist to help you welcome your new team members with open arms and equip them to do their best on your board.

The recruiting process

When it comes to onboarding, the process doesn’t begin when the new recruit joins your board meeting for the first time. Rather, it starts during the recruitment process. In order to find someone who you could onboard seamlessly, you have to start with finding someone who would mesh well with the rest of your board, and someone whose values align with your organisation’s vision and mission.

So when you are scouting for your next new board member, it is important to look out for a few characteristics and attributes:

  1. Interpersonal skills 
    Board meetings are highly collaborative. Board members with different roles, responsibilities and tenure may feel intimidated or overpowered by other members. Therefore, it is important to be on the lookout for candidates who are not only willing to speak up and voice their inputs, but also those who are willing to listen and learn from others. When a board is collaborative and compromising, that is when the board can flourish and achieve its goals effectively. 
  2. Values and goals 
    Since board members are volunteers and sometimes may not have prior experience in the sector or industry, some board members may actually be unfamiliar with the daily responsibilities and duties of a board member. As a result, it is highly essential that your board selects members who are fit to lead and serve on a board. How do you sift through all applicants and identify the most suitable candidates? You take time and exert patience during the recruitment process to find the potential candidates whose values and goals align with your board and organisation. 
  3. Financing skills 
    When thinking about board meetings, fundraising may not be the first thing that comes to mind. However, it is still a critical part of being part of a board. Raising capital for the board, for an organisation, plays a significant role in helping the organisation grow, so someone with great financing skills can definitely help your board get one step closer to the organisation’s bigger goals.

BoardPro's five steps for onboarding 

Here, BoardPro offers five steps for your board to follow when onboarding once you have recruited the perfect new member.

1. Creating a structure and foundation for onboarding 

While BoardPro understands that it is exciting when your board recruits a new member and that you want to put their skills to use right away, it is much better to follow a structured onboarding process with all new board members so they have time to get accustomed to their new working environment and team.

The first step is to create a structured onboarding foundation that is scalable and repeatable. This means that this process should be replicated every time a new member joins, regardless of their prior experience, so that all members hear the same welcome message, understand the same processes and learn the same details. This ensures everyone new will be on the same page and that they all receive a solid foundation of the board and the organisation. Not only will this eliminate confusion in the future, but it will also save time and effort on the onboarding committee to help acclimate new members.

Your boards onboarding foundation should include the following topics: 

  • An overview of the organisation's missions and vision, as well as a description of what board members goals are 
  • Feedback from current board members. Allow input from current members to see how you can help improve the onboarding experience and make it more productive and efficient. 
  • A comprehensive explanation of all committees on the board. Explain what each committee is responsible for. 
  • Ways to continuously improve and grow. Have a structured guide for how you anticipate board members to grow and contribute throughout their time on the board. 

2. Decide which team members are in charge of onboarding 

It is no secret that each board member and each committee of the board have their own responsibilities and roles. So, your board should also select one person or a team, depending on the size of your board, to be in charge of onboarding. This will ensure that the roles of each board member remain organised and that the onboarding process does not get messy with overlapping inputs. New board members will also be able to reach out to one person or team for questions or resources, rather than having to ask around the board to solve problems that may not be relevant to that person.

3. Put together an onboarding orientation document  

If you have been a board member for a while now, you will definitely be familiar with the number of documents and content that a board goes through each meeting. As a result, having a comprehensive board manual that includes all important documents in addition to onboarding content will keep all documentation organised and easy to manage. Below, under the BoardPro’s bonus board manual checklist section, you will find our suggested resources and topics to include in your onboarding manual so that all new members can access the same information.

4. Connect with new board members

When a new board member has been brought in and has received the onboarding materials, it can be helpful to connect with them outside of a formal board meeting first.

For example, introducing the new board member to current members in relatively less formal settings, such as social get-togethers or committee meetings would be a great start. When the new board members get to meet their fellow board members first at an informal level, it can ease any initial worries or discomforts, which may lead to improved rapport among the group and thus increased collaboration.

During the first board meeting with the new board member, it would be helpful to introduce the new member before starting the meeting like usual to welcome them. The rest of the board should also take some time to introduce themselves to try to help the new board member feel comfortable in the new environment.

5. Update the onboarding process once in a while

You may think that once you have successfully onboarded one new member, the onboarding process is complete. However, the work is never complete. There will always be new processes, ideas, progressions that you will need to include in your onboarding materials. And the idea goes that every iteration is meant to make your processes, in some way, better.

Therefore, whoever is in charge of the onboarding process should always be on the lookout for new documents and resources to include in the onboarding materials. By doing so, you are directly and indirectly helping the group, future members and existing members all improve.

As mentioned previously, the onboarding process should be scalable and repeatable. And thus, you should always be considering how you can improve the process and how new board members are receiving the training information best.

Make sure to always ask questions surrounding the topics that new members can learn about, how they are accessing this content, what information they receive prior to the first formal board meeting and how confidently they can speak upon the organisation’s goals, missions and vision.

BoardPro's tips for onboarding new members 

The most successful organisations have one thing in common: each board member is ready and able to work as a cohesive group. So now that your board has the onboarding process down with the aforementioned five steps, here are a couple of tips from BoardPro to welcome the newcomers with open arms.

Ensure board service is welcoming 

Warmly welcome new board members by showing interest in their goals, expectations and vision for their role and the organisation. Help them establish rapport with current board members to encourage collaboration. 

Connect new members with the mission

Help your new members connect quickly with your important work by introducing them to the challenges and strengths of your services and staff.



With BoardPro, you can start improving your onboarding process today. Remember, the onboarding process starts during the recruitment process. Once you recruit candidates who are suited for the job and reflective of your organisation’s goals and values, then it’s time to begin a seamless onboarding orientation to leave the best first impression.

With BoardPro’s five steps and bonus manual checklist, you can optimise your onboarding process and make sure that orientation is scalable and repeatable for future new board members. With this, we promise that your new board members will be contributing in no time!

If you're looking for a tool to streamline your Board processes, check out BoardPro - an all-in-one software solution designed specifically for Boards and busy CEOs!

Schedule a demo with our team today and begin to experience a whole new way of meeting.

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