Onboarding your new Trustees

4 minutes
Matt Adams

By Matt Adams

You will now have invested a considerable amount of time and effort into recruiting new Trustees and it’s important that your organisation provides a good on-boarding process. This will show your new Trustees that their success is important and will demonstrate that the organisation is well-organised and will ensure cohesion with the existing Trustees. The induction can often last the first few months of a new Trustee joining the Board.

To start, there are several documents new Trustees should review when joining (if they haven’t already), including:

  • Letter confirming their appointment and the length of their term
  • Governing document
  • Minutes and board papers for the last two meetings
  • The latest Annual Report and Accounts
  • Current strategy or business plans
  • Board-approved policies (for safeguarding, conflicts of interest etc.)
  • Details of upcoming meetings and key events, including the date, time and location

You may also wish to point new Trustees to the following documents:

  • Setting out roles and responsibilities of the board (which may include Chair, Treasurer, etc. as well as trustees) and job description of the CEO (if applicable)
  • Board terms of reference or code of conduct
  • Organisation chart including different committees and governance structure as well as operational/management structure
  • Terms of reference for any committees
  • Scheme of delegation and/or financial thresholds for expenditure.

Other aspects to consider during the induction period is to ensure new Trustees will have an opportunity to speak to the Chair, other Trustees and key senior staff. The Chair may wish to give a briefing prior to the first board meeting and ensure the new Trustee is up to speed with everything, so they feel they can contribute from the very first meeting. You might also consider doing a more informal meeting for all Trustees to meet ahead of the first board meeting. Ensuring that new members feel welcome and comfortable to contribute is so crucial.

At this stage, you probably invested a lot of time, energy and possibly money to appoint the new Trustees so you want to ensure they are successful in their role. New members will feel comfortable and confident in contributing if they feel welcome, valued and supported. This is particularly important when introducing a new member who comes with a very different background to the current members (someone with lived experience for example). If you haven’t already, here’s a few ideas to consider:

  • Organise a reception following the appointment of new members at the next board meeting or strategic away day
  • Ensure you take the time to make introductions at the first board meeting
  • Short ‘speed dating' style meetings with senior staff and Board members
  • Matching new members with an existing Board member who will support in terms of introductions, explanation of developments and offering clarity or direction in the first year
  • Give board members the opportunity to have individual meetings with Chair or Vice to check-in and to address any issues
  • Schedule training/development for the entire Board shortly after new members join

Another great way to engage with new Trustees and get them even more motivated and excited about the charity is for them to see first-hand the work of the charity, by visiting or observing some of the services the organisation provides and also meeting with some of its beneficiaries.

In addition to the induction process, it’s important for the Chair to follow-up with new Trustees in the first few months or after the first Board meeting. Also, suggesting development opportunities is a great way to ensure Trustees are keeping abreast of developments in your sector and in the wider non-profit world, and are developing their governance skills.

This may seem like a lot of work but investing in getting the right people on your Board is crucial and could make a real difference in your organisations’ success.

If you would like advice on any aspects of the process above or would like to discuss how TPP can support you in the search for new Trustees, please get in touch with Lisa or Matt on 020 7198 6040 or executive@tpp.co.uk.

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