Orientation and Education

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


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

Unfortunately, orientation and board education are often overlooked and underused practices. According to Leading with Intent, only 66 percent of chief executives and 77 percent of board chairs agree or strongly agree that their board orientation is effective. Other board development activities are less common. While 66 percent of organizations use written resources to educate board members, 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 the board’s role, and cultivate a culture of ongoing board improvement. BoardSource recommends all boards formalize a new member orientation process, build educational activities into board meetings, schedule retreats for exploration of complicated issues, and support ongoing learning by providing their members easy access to information about board leadership and governance.

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 the Resources & Solutions section of this site.


R+S Weekly, publications, and more

BoardSource creates unique, easy-to-digest downloadable resources featuring infographics, tools, templates, and more that we deliver weekly. Learn about our Resources + Solutions emails

We also have publications and other important resources specific to this topic available in our store. Explore the BoardSource store


The Board Building Cycle


Community and Member Resources

All 101-level community 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 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.

Forming the Nonprofit’s First Board

101| Community resource. The first challenge for a founder of a new nonprofit organization is to build a board. This entails recruiting committed and resourceful volunteer board members, organizing the first board meeting, and, most importantly, guiding the new board on its roles and responsibilities, which includes fine-tuning the mission, setting the guidelines for effective governance, and helping develop strategies.

I Want to Become a Nonprofit Board Member

101| Community Resource. Are you interested in becoming a board member of a nonprofit organization but don’t know how to go about it? Here are some practical steps to finding and contacting an appropriate nonprofit, and how to prepare yourself for the commitment.

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.

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.