An orientation for new board members and ongoing board training are essential for effective board service.

Why do some boards in Christian universities demonstrate a culture of excellence year after year while some seem to struggle just to get a majority of directors to show up for meetings or to make important decisions?

Could board training be key?

Why do some schools have a waiting list of board candidates while others (maybe yours) have to scramble each year to find someone who will join your board?

Might board training have an impact?

Why do some schools seem quite visible in your state while other schools (maybe yours) are rarely in the public eye?

Could this suggest a need for board training?

These questions reveal symptoms of a very real problem — inadequate board training.

Board candidates are usually thrilled to be asked to serve on a board, but motivation and a big heart are not enough to ensure a successful run as a director. It takes much more. Effective service often begins only after completing new director orientation training, and it continues with periodic refresher training for existing directors.

Here are five benefits of developing effective new director orientation and periodic board retraining in your school:

1. Board Training Engages Board Members (New and Existing)

Creating an effective new director orientation makes it easier for officers to efficiently and more quickly contribute to the organization, since they will become more comfortable with who they will be working with and how your school’s administration operates.

Without such orientation, directors might silently sit back and observe the rest of the board members, rather than engage with them. In fact, they might not begin to effectively engage for months, even years.

Even though new directors are often motivated and excited to begin their service, an orientation frees them to do so as early as possible. Good directors will not want to sit around very long in meetings. They want to serve.

Let’s not forget that board training isn’t just for new officers. Offering periodic board training for existing members is a great way to keep everyone engaged and operating as a team.

Teambuilding is often overlooked or underutilized in new board formation. It is wise to create meaningful, team-building opportunities so the new and seasoned directors can get to know each other and work well as a board.

2. Board Training Outlines Expectations and Your Organization’s Purpose

Orientation is a great opportunity to make clear what your school’s mission is. Rather than assume new directors fully grasp your institution’s “Why,” take time to review it with them.

It’s also important to help new board members understand how they contribute to your school’s overall mission. Taking the time to explain the importance of their role helps them to feel valued and that in turn will help them contribute value.

3. Board Training Promotes Healthy Boardroom Discussions

If new directors feel that they are a valued member of the team, they are more likely to meaningfully add to boardroom discussions.

Occasionally, new directors get overshadowed by other members of the board who tend to control board discussions and steer members into their own agenda. But boardroom discussions are not supposed to be for a few “insiders.”

Orientation and retraining can teach directors how important it is for all board members to engage in healthy and vigorous discussions and debate together. And it is essential to provide new directors with the knowledge they need to engage in such discussions before each meeting. This knowledge includes pertinent facts as well as administrative protocols.

4. Board Training Teaches Correct Procedures, Processes, and Policies

How beneficial would it be if new directors came to meetings prepared, asked good questions yet stayed out of day-to-day management issues, demonstrated the moral courage to respectfully speak truth when needed, and know they will not be penalized for it?

Once trained and informed, directors will be prepared and equipped to operate within your schoolboard’s protocols, and that increases efficiency and reduces stress for the entire board.

As you can see, a minimal time investment in new director orientation and periodic board refresher training provides significant benefits.

Need help setting up your board for success? Check out these 20 Steps to a Better 1st Board Meeting to make sure your new board members start off on the right foot.


  • Tom Okarma

    Tom has been a successful leader in both the nonprofit and business worlds and has led or served on a variety of boards. He’s been there, done that, and learned critical lessons about successful board development and governance.

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