Skip to main content

Suggestions for a Successful Board Orientation

A good orientation informs board members about the League, acquaints them with one another, and builds a sense of total board responsibility. New board members gain confidence in carrying out their responsibilities and learn policies and procedures expected of board members. It is a time for the board to begin to build their team as they get to know each other better.  Local League boards may conduct their own orientation sessions, call on seasoned local League leaders to facilitate, request state League assistance, or in some states, participate in sessions planned on a regular schedule. Similarly, a state board can ask the national board for facilitator assistance. Alternatively, some Leagues hire consultants to present leadership development sessions or to facilitate discussions to restructure their boards or set priorities during board training or retreats.

Whatever the design, the board's basic orientation session should be scheduled as soon as possible after the new board is elected.   Plan to have some social time and set an agenda that will include:

  1. Review of the board's nonpartisan policy
  2. Discussion of the role and responsibilities of the board
    • Plan and guide League policy,
    • Advance League goals,
    • Promote membership growth, diversity and involvement and
    • Maintain a fiscally sound organization.
  3. Description of the basic tools every board member needs to carry out board responsibilities.
    • LWVUS League Basics,
    • LWVUS Impact on Issues,
    • State League positions and local League positions.
    • LWVUS weekly email Leaders Update and website: provides access to tools, information and links to all state and local Leagues with websites.
    • LWVUS Forums: provides opportunities for information, guidance, and inter-League communication. The exchange of ideas and experiences with League peers can build the confidence of new board members.
    • State League websites and resources.

This is the time to review such details as how to prepare information for the Voter, board briefings and reports, the League's budget, what expenses are reimbursed, deadlines for the state and national Leagues, etc.

The League’s president also should make sure that outgoing board members have passed on files and materials needed for continuity of responsibilities.  It is also helpful if the outgoing board member can meet with the incoming board member to provide some background, suggestions, and ideas for the position.

In addition to the overall board orientation session, it is advisable for the president to hold a brief extra session with new board members to cover a few essentials already familiar to continuing board members, such as who speaks for the League and the president's role in approving internal and external communications.


  1. Materials for each participant
  • Local League bylaws.
  • Local League nonpartisan policy, conflict of interest policy and other board policies approved by prior boards.
  • Copies of local, state, and national positions.
  • Lists of local, state and national board members with addresses, phone numbers and email addresses.
  • Materials from the previous person who held the position Local membership list.
    • Discuss why it is necessary.
    • Review current policy - do any specifics need to be added or changed?
  • Discuss responsibility of board members to bring potential problems of individual nonpartisanship to the board.
  1. Nonpartisan Policy
  1. Role of the Board Member

A) Total Board Responsibility

Makes the League’s decisions and organizes its activities with the entire board.  The authority for the whole League operation rests with the board, whose members meet together make decisions. Board members may have specific duties, but each also shares in the responsibility of the entire board for the League’s operation. Each board member, for example, has a fiduciary responsibility for the organization, although the development chair or committee may have the day-to-day job of raising money. Because of this group responsibility, board members are expected to attend board meetings regularly, give thoughtful consideration to all aspects of League work, join in board deliberations and take part in making the general plans for League activities.

B) General Responsibilities:

    • Attends board meetings (gives notification if unable to attend)
    • Is a board member first; a specific chair second
    • Assists in overall planning and decision-making
    • Supports and attends League activities
    • Explains and promotes the League in the community
    • Understands and maintains the League’s nonpartisan policy
    • Attends state, regional and national League meetings as delegated
    • Assists in fundraising activities and makes a personal contribution to the organization
    • Promotes membership and leadership development

C) Specific Responsibilities:

    • Carries out specific assignments
    • Keeps a reference file, a board notebook or an electronic file of documents.
    • Keeps a portfolio/committee file with reports, publications, memos, clippings, etc. or maintains an electronic file of links to important documents.
    • Meets deadlines: Voter, publicity, reports to state and national offices as required. 
    • Responds to League email or other communications promptly.
    • Brings proposals to board for discussion and decisions.
    • Obtains board approval prior to taking action unless the action is ongoing.
    • Trains successor and passes on files.

D) Best Practices:

    • Provide a copy of this document for each board member.
    • Recruit a committee, size appropriate for the assignment, in order to involve other members, develop leaders and share the workload.
    • Prepare brief reports for board meetings.
    • Provide information for the Voter/newsletter when appropriate.
    • Review assignment/portfolio and discusses past and ongoing projects with predecessor—and with successor when board term ends.


League of Women Voters of the US May 2013