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, board education is often overlooked and underused. According to Leading with Intent 2017,  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 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 Support for Boards section of this site.

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.

Ask Our Consultants: Board Orientation

101 | Community resource. A BoardSource Senior Governance Consultant addresses whether long-term board members should be included in new member orientation processes.

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.

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.