Nonprofit Board Education and Orientation

Nonprofit board education should be an ongoing effort that builds on a practical, formal orientation program and is informed by regular board self-assessment.

Continuous — and collective — learning opportunities will help deepen your board members’ understanding of your organization,  the environment in which your nonprofit operates, and their roles and responsibilities, which, in turn, will increase their effectiveness and value to your organization.

The Role of Nonprofit Education and Orientation

Unfortunately, board education is often overlooked and underused. According to Leading with Intent, 69 percent of organizations use written resources to educate board members while more interactive educational activities — such as trainings, seminars, and webinars — are far less common.

By investing time and resources in board education, you will be able to deepen your board members’ commitment to your organization, strengthen their understanding of their role, and cultivate a culture of ongoing board improvement. BoardSource recommends that all boards formalize a new member orientation process, build educational activities into board meetings, schedule retreats to explore complicated issues, and support ongoing learning by providing members with easy access to board leadership and governance information.

The following resources are designed to help you develop and implement effective orientation and board education activities. You’ll find further guidance — including information about our Certificate of Nonprofit Board Education program — in addition to other in-person and virtual educational offerings available throughout the year.

Quick Access:
Visual & Written Info

Guides, tools, templates, and infographics
Publications: books and toolkits
Written resources: 101, 201, and 301-level

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Guides, Tools, Templates, and Infographics


Written Resources

All 101-level topical resources listed below are available publicly. BoardSource members have access to 101, 201, and 301-level resources. Don’t forget to visit the BoardSource store for more resources and training on this topic.

Appropriate Delegation

201| Members only resource. As the fiduciary, the board must take special care by making informed decisions and, while deliberating, be mindful of the organization’s potential threats and opportunities. Although the board cannot delegate its primary fiduciary duty, it can allot aspects of its work to other work groups and/ or individuals. As long as the full board retains ultimate control over what’s being done, delegation can be a wise management practice.

Board Orientation

101| Community resource. Every board has a culture that is defined by its customs, traditions, and practices. Every new board member needs an introduction to that culture as well as the general expectations placed on individual board members.

Eight Ways to Increase Your Board's Ability to Work as a Team

301| Community resource. Board work is, fundamentally, a collective effort, and it requires a unique kind of teamwork among members. This resource presents eight tactics you can utilize to increase your board’s ability to collaborate and work as a team.

Joining a Nonprofit Board

101| Community resource. People have countless reasons for wanting to become nonprofit board members. Most individuals have well-informed, honorable intentions, and with guidance, they have the potential to have fulfilling board experiences. But occasionally, motivations are misinformed, wholly self-serving, or simply not constructive.

Key Questions to Ask Before Joining a Nonprofit Board

101 | Community resource. Serving on a board can be a rewarding experience, but is also time-intensive and demanding. Review these key questions before joining a board.

Non-Board Members as Committee Members

201| Members only resource. Committees help facilitate board’s work; prepare board members for informed decision making; provide a mechanism to use all available skill and expertise; and offer hands-on opportunities to serve the organization.

Passion for Mission

201 | Member resource. Knowing your board’s level of emotional ownership will provide a helpful indicator as to the amount of training and follow through an organization must invest to ensure that it enjoys the benefits of good governance principles.

Sharing Authority in a Nonprofit

201| Members only resource. The decision-making power in a nonprofit organization is shared by different entities. The full board resides at the top of the authority pyramid but it is neither realistic — nor desirable — for this group to make every single decision within every organizational activity.