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Best Practices for On-Boarding New Trustees - Part 2

By Cynthia Woolbright

A follow up to Part 1 of Best Practices for On-Boarding New Trustees

Bringing new trustees on board offers great and unique opportunities to inspire and engage them in your work.

New members should meet individually with the President and senior officers as a part of the on-boarding process. You might arrange a group meeting, with individual officers meeting with the trustees to follow. For example, the CFO can spend time at the 30,000 feet view of finances. Campus tours, with a student admission representative, is very important as well. Depending upon the new trustee schedule and their number, these visits can be done with each trustee individually. Of course, some accommodation may be necessary to engage trustees in this on-boarding, given their own schedules as well as the President and his/her team.

Prior to the first board meeting, the trustee and their mentor should review the board meeting agenda with the mentor providing background on the topics and what might be expected at the upcoming meeting. Following the trustees’ meeting, mentee and mentor should reconnect and review, clarify, and discuss the trustee meeting. This is a grand opportunity for the new member to share, from his/her perspective, their view of the meeting - what made sense and what didn’t, learning about back stories that might provide insights into the dynamics experienced in the meeting, etc. These pre and post sessions with the mentor and new trustee should continue for future meetings in the new trustee’s first year.

As new trustees are assigned to board committees, it will be valuable for them to learn more about that committee. The committee chair or another trustee on the committee should meet the new member to provide an overview, strategic direction, priorities of the committee’s work for the year and what is expected to be accomplished. Basically, a “mini on-boarding process” at the committee level.

Consider having the President invite new members to athletic games, lectures, and other events that will help the trustee to learn more about the organization and the culture while deepening relationships with the President, administrative members and staff.

Mid-year consider having a member of the Governance Committee meet with new trustees to assess progress, learn their perspectives and what might be improved. This valuable feedback will assist the committee in their continued cultivation and stewardship of new trustees, as well as their on-boarding. At the end of the year, this interview process should be repeated. The Governance Committee should then analyze the mid-year to year-end perspectives for opportunities for further engagement, areas for improvement, and feedback from the new trustees. All interviews should be kept confidential.

Over the timespan from selection of the trustee to the end of their first year, digital options for on-boarding should be readily available. For example, informational videos about enrollment strategies, trends, setting tuition, etc. Though some of these aspects may have been presented before, it is an opportunity for a trustee to return to the content for deeper understanding.

Through a significant identification of potential trustees to their cultivation to their on-boarding process, this first year can be quite valuable for a trustee to engage more fully, to build and deepen relationships with members, to gain an understanding your mission and vision and to get to know the President, fellow trustees and staff.

By establishing a thoughtful and intentional process of engagement, the new trustee is better served and able to contribute more effectively and contribute to the overall well-being and vitality of their work that furthers the vision and priorities of the campus or institution.

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