Board Member Orientation – Time Well Spent

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We have all seen the “trial by fire” training that many volunteer board members receive.  They attend their first meeting, receive a large notebook or envelope containing the association’s contracts and documents, and begin to address the current events facing their association.  In many of these instances, the amount of information provided is staggering and can lead to a board member feeling overwhelmed by the sheer volume or feeling “under-qualified” because the document language is not user friendly.  The board member may ignore the information all together.
Whether new to the board or new to an executive position on the board, there should be a way to convey information on the important aspects of a board member’s role.  At a minimum, this information should be accompanied by an in-person orientation.  This training is most often conducted by the manager, who can review the documents, provide a brief history on current events, review the current reporting processes and provide a general financial review.
Orientation Basics
An orientation should be offered as soon as possible after the board member is seated or takes their new role. Remember to include or reference:

  • The laws and documents that provide the board and the association with its authority
  • The role of the board and an organizational chart for communications
  • The role of the manager
  • A financial overview and outline of the basic processes currently in place (payment authorization, violation, collection, maintenance and investment policies).
  • An annual plan, maintenance calendar, and interface with professional team members can also be added;
  • The concept of fiduciary duty;
  • Active contracts;
  • Meeting conduct and expectations;

The Next Level
Orientation is most effective when it gets to the next level.  How do you get to the next level? Information can be summarized in a handout or presentation and can be customized per community.  This information gets presented to all new board members using several of the community’s professional team (manager, regional manager, accountant, attorney, experienced board member, etc).  Even better, a board orientation is most effective when it is used as a means to coalesce both seasoned and new board members so they face their new year as a cohesive group with the same goals. The presentation should allow for group questions along the way encouraging interaction.  Consider offering light refreshments to help set the tone.

The Benefits
At the conclusion of these presentations, even the experienced board member will have learned something new, and new board members will now have a solid foundation that they can use going forward.
Managers will reap the benefit of these presentations as well.  They will now have a knowledgeable board member working from the same base of information as other board members, which reduces the “learning curve” at future meetings.  Plus, senior management will have had a chance to connect with a client in the best possible way – education.
Scheduling an annual orientations is a recurring item at many communities.  Training sessions can even be expanded to committee leaders as well.  What better way to get committee chairpersons “in the know?”  Start working with board and committee members on how best to work this into an annual event.  Use your company’s FAQs for board members or post orientations in available board access areas of websites.  Be consistent.  Be creative.  Be sure to customize the information to the community.
Incorporate several CAI periodicals into the presentations and recommend the distribution of “Community Association Leadership third edition A Guide for Volunteers”.  The book is approximately $5.00 online ( for CAI members.  It is a great summary of leadership basics.  CAI also has several ways for board members to receive education via DVD, online, periodicals or in-person attendance at board ABC programs.  These should be done in addition to an orientation curriculum provided by management.
Management professionals who take the time to provide this to their board members will not only benefit from the shared informational knowledge, but may also receive positive feedback and kudos.  It’s an ideal venue for the board members and management team to build a relationship of trust and understanding.
Below are recent testimonials received from similar board programs.
“I totally enjoyed the presentations. They were very relevant to our association. Our questions were answered and we have already implemented some procedures. I look forward to another program. My only regret was that all of our board members were unable to attend. FC”
“Your programs are always relevant and timely. I am continuously learning about what to do and not do as a board member.”-Anonymous
“It was informative, especially if one is inexperienced.” DT
This article provided by Associa