Board Member Orientation and Retention

Once you’ve recruited talented and passionate people to serve on your CHC’s Board of Directors, you’ll want to give them every tool they need to be successful and efficient in guiding the organization. The following tips and resources will help you prepare new members for their duties as Directors, and to make their experiences on your board as rewarding as possible.

Please click or scroll down for:
Orienting Board Members
Retaining Board Members


Orientation is vital!
All new board members should be oriented with a positive attitude and clear expectations. An effective orientation will ensure new members are as prepared as possible for their roles, and will incorporate a face-to-face component as well as a notebook of important documents. This process should be pre-planned and documented so everyone performing board member orientation covers the same material.

The face-to-face portion of orientation might include:

  • How a non-profit board works, including the special characteristics of:
    • A Community Health Center (see the About CHCs and CHC Terms & Acronyms pages for useful information)
    • A Community Health Center’s Board of Directors (see the Board Composition and Recruitment page for useful information)
    • Non-profit governance (scroll down to the online orientation resources for a link to a searchable governance glossary)
  • History of the organization
  • Board responsibilities, including participation and attendance requirements (see the Board Roles and Responsibilities page for useful information)
  • Organizational goals and update of current Strategic Plan
  • Site visit, including a meeting with the Chief Executive Officer (CEO)/Executive Director (ED) and Board President
  • Introduction of new member at his or her first board meeting
  • Time for a question-and-answer period

After the first orientation meeting, consider having someone make a follow-up phone call with an offer to answer any other questions.

The Board Member Notebook should include information about the organization, such as:

  • Mission statement, vision statement, & values
  • History/background
  • Program information (services, activities, etc.)
  • Articles of incorporation & bylaws
  • Strategic plan
  • Staff & board member directory
  • Agendas & minutes (past 3-12 months)
  • Budget & financial reports (current and past 2-3 months)
  • Board meeting schedule/calendar
  • List of current and planned board committees, with written descriptions
  • Meeting rules (see the Effective Board Meetings page for useful information)

Click HERE for a sample Table of Contents for a Board of Directors Notebook.

Additional Online Board Orientation Resources:
Free toolkit of articles addressing board member orientation and training
Board Orientation
Tips for orienting new members to the board of directors
Orienting New Members to Boards of Directors

National Association of Community Health Centers (NACHC)
e-learning module to strengthen board members’ competencies
Introduction to Health Centers for Governing Board Members
Customizable slides with general information plus a series of slides to be updated with health center-specific information.
New Board Members Orientation: PowerPoint Template and Facilitator Guide
Article, 10/30/20:
Orienting New Health Center Board Members During the COVID-19 Pandemic


Retention Tips:

  • Make sure board members know one another, know the management team, and know what is expected of them
  • Get them involved quickly (signed up for a committee), but don’t overextend the members
  • Provide targeted training & technical assistance regularly
    • Might need to be individualized, based on member needs (e.g. communication skills, technical issues, the nature of health care and health centers, etc.)
    • Group training could be some sort of continuing education at each board meeting (10-15 minutes), such as role playing, an expert/guest speaker, watching a video or webcast
    • Consider hiring an experienced board trainer to provide guidance to the entire board on a regular basis
    • Visit the Continuing Board Education page for useful training resources
  • Involve them in special events; offer volunteer opportunities
  • Incorporate term limits – so members know when they will complete their service to the organization
  • Avoid micro-management
  • Experienced board trainers can help prepare the board for possibly difficult transition periods. For example, the board of new start CHCs often has organizational management duties before the staff is hired; however, once the organization has hired personnel to take care of management, the board must transition to governance

Additional Online Board Retention Resources:

Agility Executive Search Blog
Article, 01/13/11:
The Do’s and Don’ts of Recruiting, Developing, and Retaining an Excellent Board of Directors

The Chronicle of Philanthropy
Article, 07/17/03:
Advice for Keeping Board Members Motivated Over the Long Haul
Article, 09/07:
Top Five Ways to Show Your Board That You Value Them
Article, 05/10:
10 Tips for Keeping Your Board Fired Up and in Action for the Cause
Article, 11/10:
Keeping Your Board Engaged for Your Cause

Lifework Strategies
2010 CHAMPS/NWRPCA Annual Conference session presentation slides
Five Dysfunctions of a Team
Four Stages of Team or Group Development

National Association of Community Health Centers (NACHC)
Article, 04/08/21:
Recruiting and Retaining Board Members: Considerations During and Immediately Post-Pandemic

Nonprofit Conversation
Article, 05/03/09:
Recruiting and Retaining Board Members