Mentoring can have a powerful influence on a new board member, and assigning a seasoned board member who is available for face-to-face guidance immediately engages the new board member to learn from another individual’s personal experience. Below are four tips for successful trustee mentoring.
- Mentors should be experienced trustees. Mentors should be sitting trustees with sufficient years of service to know how the board works, its curiosities and idiosyncrasies. They should be among the best-performing trustees, leaders or past leaders of board committees who are willing to spend the time to assist new trustees up the learning curve of trusteeship.
- Mentors should attend new-trustee orientation with their mentee. While orientation programs are designed with new trustees in mind, it's important for the mentor to also know what is expected of the new board member. Additionally, the new board member may have specific questions based on things he or she heard.
- Mentors should guide new trustees on how best to engage with materials and participate at board meetings. A phone call prior to board meetings in the first year can help the new trustee understand the agenda and expectations in terms of preparation and participation. Communication with the mentor following each meeting is critical. The objective is to help the new trustee understand what was accomplished, to review how the board reached its conclusions, and to answer any questions.
- Mentors should also receive training! A short statement of responsibilities is helpful, as well as a suggested calendar of mentor-new trustee contacts that at least covers the first year of mentorship.
For more advice about on-boarding new trustees, watch Ellen Chaffee's AGBU video about board orientation.