Setting the Stage for Success

Getting Your New Board Up to Speed
February 2014 pdf version

For those of you who have been a board member for a few years, you can well remember how challenging it was as a new member! There was so much to learn about the world of Conservation Districts, no less getting up to speed on all that your District was involved in.  We have provided the below ideas for your Conservation District which can be used in conjunction with each other, to get your new and returning board members up to speed and ready for a productive year. 

Board Orientation Meeting
Help your new board members make the adjustment and at the same time help your entire board gain a better perspective on the District and their responsibilities, by taking the time to step away from regular board business with a special board orientation meeting or retreat.
According to the Michigan Nonprofit Management Manual, 5th Edition, "an effective orientation serves a number of purposes.  It makes the new director feel welcome and presents a comfortable situation where the new director can ask basic questions.  It allows the new board member to gain an understanding of the internal workings of the organization, including financial reports, records and other matters, in an environment that supports their ability to ask questions and gain a complete understanding of the organization."  By stepping away from your regular business for this special meeting or retreat, your Conservation District can welcome new members while re-energizing current members for the year ahead.  This meeting is also an excellent opportunity to review the District's current plan of work and discuss how the District is progressing toward its goals.
Holding such a meeting may seem like a challenge, yet the benefits of having a special meeting are significant and we encourage your board to set up a board orientation meeting or retreat within the first two months after your annual meeting.

Create a Board Orientation Packet
A Board Orientation Packet is great tool to bring your board members up to speed and should be provided to them soon after they are elected to the board. This informational packet will provide important information that will not only be a beneficial learning tool; it will be an excellent reference document throughout their term.  MACD suggests that Conservation Districts prepare a Board Orientation Packet for new board members with information that will familiarize them with the work of the Conservation District and the bigger picture of how the District fits within Michigan's conservation program delivery system.  Information to be included in a Board Orientation Packet include:
  • Copy of the Conservation District enabling legislation (LINK)
  • Brief historical overview of your Conservation District and the relationship with the state overseeing agency, MDARD
  • Board contact information and terms
  • Staff organization chart
  • Resource Assessment and the current Annual Plan of Work (providing last year's Plan of Work is also a good idea)
  • Copies of board minutes from the last 12 months
  • List and description of current committees and board assignments
  • Copy of District policies
  • Copy of (or web link to) the Conservation District Operations Manual (LINK)
  • Current and past year's budget
  • Most recent annual report
  • Most recent financial self audit or full audit
  • District fundraising plan, including tree sale information/statistics
  • Summary of insurance coverage
  • Overview of partner organization, county and township relationships
  • Calendar of meetings and events
  • Information on state organization (MACD)
  • Board member and District Manager (administrator) job descriptions
An informed board member is an effective board member! Set up your Conservation District for success by assuring your new board members are armed with the information they need to make informed decisions about the operation of your Conservation District. Visit the MACD District Resources webpage for more information, training and resources for Conservation District management and operations.Lori Phalen, Executive Director MACD.