You have been nominated and are now a newly appointed board member. You were either recruited for your skillset or you volunteered for this position because you have a passionate desire to make an impact in your field. Now it’s time to learn how to effectively contribute and see the results of your efforts. It can take some time to get up to speed, but if you focus on reviewing the right documents, you can be more effective during your term and be renewed into a senior leadership role on the board.

Ask for Your Orientation Package.

As soon as you are officially appointed, ask for your orientation manual. This can come in many forms, but for the purpose of this article I will refer to it as the board binder. It should contain a collection of all documents relevant to all positions on your associations board of directors. Keep this handy as it should contain a copy of the by-laws, governance policies, reference material, and contact information necessary to contribute effectively. Other important information such as your associations history, revenue sources, professional contracts, past meeting minutes, and strategic plan may also be included. You do not need to read it all in one sitting but having it handy as a point of reference is crucial. Your association may also have a standard operating procedures manual (SOP) and task calendar. These are great tools which can help you be successful in your role as a board member.

Read the By-Laws

Once you have your package, begin by reviewing your associations by-laws. As a board member you should have a solid understanding of the rules that govern your association. These are typically approved by the membership at the annual general meeting, though there are some exceptions for special circumstances. These usually contain a formal representation of items which would fall under headings such as the following:

  • Governance
  • Committees
  • Annual Members Meeting
  • Administration
  • Financial Administration
  • Registration & Membership Fees
  • Code of Ethics & Professional Conduct
  • Professional Learning

These are some of the sections which will contain the details of the actions necessary for committee to resolve most issues and ensure that the association fulfills its obligations in all areas. Take specific note to review the section which involves any committees you may chair. Also take note of important dates in your calendar so as not to miss items which are scheduled precursors to events such as the annual general meeting.

What is Your Vision and Mission?

You can typically find your associations vision and mission on the ‘About’ section of your association’s website. It’s always a good idea to include these on the agenda of every meeting as to remind everyone participating that your efforts should always link to serving the ultimate vision and mission of your association. This statement should succinctly embody the focus of your work. When making any major policy changes or public statements, your actions should be reinforced by the vision and mission. If a decision does not align with the vision and mission of your association, adjustments need to be made. A firm connection to the vision and mission will give you the confidence to lead your peers as you work towards achieving your associations strategic goals.

Board Roles, Governance Structure, and Duties

In addition to being a voting member of the board, board members may be asked to chair a committee that focuses on accomplishing specific initiatives that allow the association to operate. When volunteering for a specific position, make sure you review the description of your role and the annual tasks associated with it. Remember, you do not have to do all the committee work yourself. As a committee chair, make sure you reach out to committee members to delegate pieces of projects and discuss how best to resolve issues as they come up. This is a great way to make connections and bond with other association members.

Financial Responsibilities

Depending on the area expertise you bring to the board, you may or may not have financial experience from your career, and that is okay. What is important is that you take steps to understand the financial responsibilities as an association board. Also, remember that you will have other experienced board members to guide you, as well as association staff and the appointed auditor who will provide an accurate independent assessment of your association’s financials. If everyone performs their duties, you will safeguard your associations financial position for many years to come.

Success Starts Today

Whether you have yet to attend a single meeting, or are serving another term, reviewing the board binder is an important piece of volunteering on the board of directors of any association. Being informed and knowledgeable in your role is crucial to your success as a leader and to accomplishing your association’s vision and mission.