Each year, the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases holds an onboarding session for new and returning board members.
“I think everyone can learn from these discussions, regardless of whether you’ve already served on the board,” said NFID Executive Director and CEO Marla Dalton, PE, CAE. “Since the pandemic, some of our members haven’t met in person, so it’s important to include the full board.”
When done well, onboarding sessions help new members better understand the association’s goals and their role in moving those objectives forward.
“Boards need to be agile,” said David Falchek, CAE, principal at DF Solutions. “You can’t wait a year until new members are fully contributing. Each individual needs to understand what’s going on.”
Creating onboarding experiences that are not only informative and insightful but also fun and engaging can help new volunteer leaders better understand their duties so they can quickly start supporting the association’s vision.
Create a Comfortable Atmosphere
A high-functioning board requires strong personal relationships. This can be difficult to achieve for remote boards, so organizations need to ensure that members get to know one another.
“This builds a trust relationship that empowers them to tackle pressing and sometimes contentious issues,” Falchek said. “Volunteer leaders want to grow and be transformed by their experiences. By creating those opportunities for directors, we get the best of what they have to offer.”
NFID begins its onboarding meeting with fun ice breakers that allow members to get to know one another. That’s especially important since several members started their terms during the pandemic and because NFID holds virtual meetings.
“At the last meeting, we asked members about their first concert experience,” Dalton said. “These fun questions lighten the mood and help the board build comradery.”
NFID’s onboarding session features presentations from the chair and returning members about board roles and responsibilities.
“Our current president discusses her work to give new board members a better sense of what to expect,” Dalton said. “She’s shared the importance of media training, ways to engage with staff, and how to tell which tasks are best-suited for volunteer leaders or for staff.”
Dalton encourages returning members to give presentations as well, which helps them feel more engaged in the activity. In this way, the onboarding session becomes a valuable experience for new and returning directors.