Creating a Great Board Manual

Here’s a selection of items to include in the board manual for new board members. Many of these documents you already have. If you find you need to create documents, your current board members will appreciate having them as well, so be sure to share them with everyone. Keep everything brief, but informative.

Consider whether it makes more sense to have these as printed documents, or if you would rather create a shared online area to store them. Every board and board member is different in how they prefer to receive information. Google Drive is a low-cost solution that nonprofits often use for sharing documents.

History of the organization – a one-page document that explains how the organization got started, and historical details that are relevant to current discussions.

Staff list – including names and positions. For a larger nonprofit, an organizational chart would be helpful. Adding photos would be even better!

Board list – be sure to include contact information and a brief biography for each so the new members can start to become familiar with the full board. Again, photos would help everyone get to know each other.

Current programs – List out each program the organization runs, along with a brief description. Make these memorable! Help the board connect to the programs you run. Can you add a story about how the financial education program you run helped someone or a picture of a young mom receiving supplies?

Board committee list – Include the tasks of each committee and its members. Help the board members understand how each board committee fits into the organization.

Board policies and procedures – All policies that the board members need to follow. This will be different for every organization but will include documents such as the conflict of interest policy and the board code of conduct.

Board calendar – all upcoming meetings and important events. Be sure to highlight those that board members are expected or encouraged to attend.

These last few items you should already have and can add to the above documents:

  • Bylaws
  • Current budget
  • Most recent financial statement, most recent audit, and 990
  • Minutes from the last two or three meetings
  • Current strategic plan, and any recent reports

Finally, think about how you can make this information more interesting for your board. Can you add in some creative art created by young program participants, or a heartfelt thank you note from someone you have helped? Photos are a great way to tell your story.

The board manual can then be used to guide the board orientation for new members.

Please let me know how I can help you build a strong board manual. It’s a service I enjoy providing to organizations.

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