10 Crucial Items to Include in the Handbook for New Directors

The people you bring onto your board are fully capable of finding their own way. They are self-starters, motivated to take on new challenges. So direct that motivation into advancing the work of your board, rather than figuring out how your board works!

Boards are complex systems. Even for experienced board members, joining a new board always involves a period of transition, orientation, and assimilation. There are two things that will have those new directors quickly up to speed: a small handbook and a mentor. Let’s page through the handbook now.

Only twelve to twenty-four pages in length, the handbook is specific to your board and has all the basic information that a new director needs  — or tells her where to find it. (The Oregon Department of Justice publishes a 14-page gem is that is one of the best generic examples I’ve seen. Download it for free here.)

What Should Be In the Handbook?

Here are 10 crucial items to include in the handbook for new directors:

1. An introduction from the board chair providing a summary of the intended outcomes — or Ends policy — of the organization (who is to receive what benefit and at what cost or relative priority) and the key functions of the board;

2. The job description of the board as a whole;

3. The job description of individual directors;

4. A description of the key resources available and where to find them (e.g., governance policies, by-laws, a mentor);

5. A brief description of the fiduciary duties of board members;

6. The Code of Conduct for board members;

7. A brief description of liability as it may pertain to board members;

8. A summary of the board’s primary external relationships (moral ownership, customers/clients, affinity groups, etc.);

9. Organizational charts for both the board and the staff; and

10. Where to find more information (board & staff contacts, links to web sites, etc.)

10-Minute Board Discussion

When you were a new director, what else would you have found useful in a handbook?


Creative Commons image by Flickr user heathbrandon

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