Are you looking for a way to develop your board members’ leadership abilities? A board mentoring program can have powerful results. Savvy nonprofit boards are following the lead of their private sector cousins and utilizing mentoring as a means for orienting new members, promoting individual and organizational learning, and preparing for leadership succession. I can attest to the power of board mentoring professionally (as a mentoring subject matter expert) and personally (as a volunteer board leader). Mentoring has made me a better board contributor, increased my commitment to the organization, and been extremely gratifying.

I sit on the board of a national educational agency. Over the past five years, we have streamlined all of our board processes, structures, and board member expectations. Every new board member is now assigned two mentors from day one — a veteran board mentor and a staff mentor — to hasten his or her integration and involvement. The board development committee does the matching. Mentoring partners meet virtually and/or in person prior to and after every board meeting during the first year of board service. The board mentors welcome the new board members into the “organizational family” by introducing them to the people, issues, and work of the organization and serving as go-to people and sounding boards. The staff mentors’ job is to translate organization alphabet soup and familiarize new board members with the organization’s current and long-term programmatic and financial operations. As both mentors get to know the new board member, they confer about how to best utilize the mentee’s time and talent and enhance his or her board experience. After one year of service, one board member commented to me, “I’ve served on many boards and never before felt so welcomed; as a result, I am more willing to give my time. I feel connected to the people, the work, and the mission of the organization. Because of that, I am able to better represent its mission to our stakeholders.”

Read the full report on board mentoring at BoardSource.