It’s Worth It.

Many executive directors and dare I say many new board officers do not look forward with anticipation to the board orientation. For executive directors, especially those who have been in the role for some time, the board orientation can feel like an exercise in futility, with board members often not engaged or interested. For board members, especially those who have been members of the association for some time, the orientation can seem like a check the box exercise.

With this attitude and approach to the board orientation, the outcomes often meet the low expectations. For all involved, as well as the good of the organization, there is a better way.  Approached properly, your board member orientation can be a springboard to improved relations between the executive director and the board and lead to improved governance within the organization.

Preparation, Purpose, Passion

The success of the orientation is directly related to your advance efforts (preparation), your thoughts on the outcomes you desire (purpose), and your delivery and engagement with board members during the presentation (passion).

You can also think of it as the three “Bs”:

  • Be enthusiastic – if you don’t seem to care, why should they
  • Be concise – provide only information that has value
  • Be surprising – have them walk away saying “I had no idea all the association does”

Enlightening board members with a better knowledge of your organization, the value you provide members, and your role and importance within the industry, can go a long way to better preparing them for the issues they will be dealing with on the board and in some instances, changing long-held misperceptions they have of the organization and/or staff.

Staff to Staff – Board to Board

We CAE’s have had this message drilled into us! As much as your board members want to get involved in the day-to-day of the organization (and may be most comfortable doing so based on their own organizations), it is your job to remind them (and remind them….) that the Board’s role is to be strategic, staff’s role is to manage. It is also important to reinforce that communications between board and staff start and end with the executive director.

Duty of Foresight

The orientation is a good time to highlight your organization’s strategic plan (which hopefully has been reviewed and updated since the pandemic begin). Your board members may be familiar with the traditional “three duties” of board members (Care, Obedience, Loyalty), but less so with the fourth, Foresight.

Foresight is the obligation of boards to “anticipate and prepare for a range of plausible futures and to harness change for the benefit of members and the organization”.  This duty will be included in the new edition of ASAE’s “Professional Practices in Assn. Management”, due out this December.

It’s Worth It

A knowledgeable board is an effective board, which in the end will make for a better partner with the executive director. Invest the time and effort in your board orientation, you’ll be glad you did.

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