Developing an effective induction process

It is important to start your board's relationship with a new member on a positive note. Some boards make the mistake of signing up a new member, handing them a manual and then largely forgetting about them, assuming they will just get on with the job.

While many new board members may well do just that, you can help to make the settling-in process a little less daunting by having procedures in place to welcome and introduce new members to their role.


It is of utmost importance for your community group that your board functions as a team. Having one or some members who do not yet feel part of the team can therefore badly impact on the effectiveness of the board. The board member may be "green" but they will still have a vote – and you want to make sure that they know what they're voting on.

An induction process will also help to ensure that the new member can more easily grasp the processes, procedures and aims of the group, which will in turn help to boost their confidence. And the faster new board members become comfortable within their new role, the faster they will contribute.

Your board also needs to get to know its new member's strengths. An effective induction process can help in this process.


Your induction process should start straight away. Don't leave it for weeks or months. You need to strike while the new member's enthusiasm is at its peak. Confirming an appointment and then cutting the appointee adrift will probably leave a bad taste in their mouth – and a feeling that maybe their services are not so in demand after all.

While it is important to start the induction immediately, don't do it all at once. Bombarding a new board member with too much information can leave them feeling overwhelmed and frustrated. You should adopt a "drip-feed" approach. Hand over the manual straight away but then give them a few days or weeks to digest it before asking them for questions or feedback.


You can involve staff members in your induction or orientation process, but the board should lead the process. It is an excellent idea to offer the services of an experienced board member as a mentor for the new addition. The mentor should be able to offer insights into aspects of the running of the board that may be confusing at first – why meetings are held and how they are held; insights into the strengths of individual board members; explanations about issues with a complicated background, etc. The mentor should be available to answer questions the new board member has outside of board meetings and act as a sounding board for ideas or issues the new member may want to test before bringing up in a full meeting.


Your induction or orientation process can be formal or informal, or fall somewhere in between. Elements can include:

Step One - Initial contact

Make contact as soon as the board has confirmed a new member's appointment. Respectfully inquire about any accommodations or support needs the new board member may require. Accommodations may look like receiving emails and documents in an accessible format or providing other support such as a translator or interpreter or modified equipment such as chairs, software and phones.

Step Two - The Inclusive Board Manual

Send a copy of the board manual. The manual could include:

  • A welcome letter emphasising the organisation's commitment to diversity and inclusion.
  • Background information about the group and board members roles and responsibilities
  • Official documents, such as the constitution/articles of association, rules. policies (including diversity, equity, and inclusion policies), strategic plan, budgets, and annual reports, all in accessible formats (eg plain language and digital accessible formats).
  • Biographical and contact information about board members and staff (if appropriate), including their pronouns and any relevant accommodations or preferences.
  • Information on accessibility features of board meetings and venues, such as wheelchair accessibility, captioning, and remote participation options.
  • An overview of the organisation's commitment to accommodating diverse perspectives and lived experiences in decision-making processes.

Step Three - Inclusive introductions

Ensure that the new board member is introduced in a welcoming and inclusive way to the other board members and staff. Consider scheduling a virtual or in-person meet-and-greet session whichever is more accommodating to diverse communication styles and accessibility needs. Invite them to any events or social functions prior to their first meeting.

Step Four - Roles and responsibilities

Draw the new members attention to the roles and responsibilities of the board members in a way that acknowledges diverse backgrounds and experiences. Offer support to address any concerns or gaps in knowledge related to board governance, ensuring equal opportunities for participation and contribution.

Step Five - Comprehensive Briefing

Take the new member through the minutes of recent meetings and brief them on issues the board is dealing with at the moment or will be looking at in the future. Allow them time to digest the information and to ask questions. Check back in after the briefing and ask what they want to know more about, and if there are areas which they may benefit from participating in training.

Offer a session on the non-profit's financial situation, including a breakdown of revenue sources, expenses, and budget allocation, tailored to the new member's financial background.

Provide a glossary of financial terms used in board materials to ensure new members can understand financial reports and discussion

Step Six - Inclusive Site Tour

Offer a tour of your community group’s facilities and let them see your programs in action. Having a firsthand “picture” of what the group does will help them make better decisions when it comes to voting on issues affecting the group. Provide detailed information about accessibility features, parking options, public transportation routes, bathroom facilities, and office equipment usage guidelines.

Step Seven - Mutual Learning Exchange

Make your induction process two-way ensuring your board also gets to know its new member. Find out about the new members unique perspectives, strengths, and experiences are valued and integrated into board discussions and decision-making processes. Encourage open dialogue about interests, skills, and expectations to facilitate meaningful contributions and collaboration.

Step Eight - Ongoing Feedback and Improvement

Seek feedback from the new board member about the induction process. Use feedback to continuously improve and enhance the inclusivity of board practices, policies, and meetings.

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