Trustee Talk, Issue 1: Welcoming New Trustees


As a current trustee or chair, how do I ensure that new trustees on the board are welcomed and encouraged to actively participate?


The first step to managing this transition successfully is to understand that every time a trustee leaves or a new member joins the board, for all practical purposes, a new board has been established and may impact the dynamics of the board. To foster and maintain board cohesiveness, a strong recognition and orientation process must be created to handle this change. Below are several key strategies:

  1. Orientation. Offer a comprehensive and ongoing orientation program about trustee and board roles. The program should ideally consist of both an orientation to the college provided by the president, and a second orientation to the workings of the board provided by the chair and/or current trustees. The board orientation should include an overview of the roles and responsibilities of trustees and the board, board strategies and goals, communications protocols, trustee resources including a board manual, mini-sessions on the college budget, a review of the last audited financial statement, and the campus master facility plan.

  2. Ceremony. Hold a formal swearing-in ceremony that reflects the importance of the trustee role. Issue a press release to the internal and external communities announcing the appointment/election of the new trustee, and acknowledging the contributions of the outgoing trustee.

  3. Resources. Introduce the new trustee(s) to, the New and Experienced Trustees Governance Leadership Institute, and other ACCT resources to familiarize them with their roles and responsibilities on facilitating effective governance.

  4. Set the Tone. Have the board chair set the right tone by welcoming the new trustee(s) and encouraging engagement in board business, so individuals don't feel as if they have to "sit on the sidelines" during board meetings. Sharing his/her biographical information with the board and community at the first meeting can be part of this welcoming process. Also, appointing the new trustee(s) to committee(s) or task group(s) goes a long way in making the individuals feel included, as well as getting them involved as productive members of the board from the beginning.

  5. Welcome Packet. The board chair, in collaboration with the college president, should prepare a welcome packet (could be provided electronically) that includes the following materials: annual status report, recent press releases, minutes from recent board meetings, key financial documents, a meeting schedule, locations, parking arrangements, logistical information, ongoing trustee training opportunities, and policy regarding reimbursable expenses along with any required forms.

  6. Transition. As you welcome the new trustee(s), be sure there is also a formal, structured plan to thank outgoing trustees for their years of service to the college. This acknowledgment could include a formal resolution by the board, the presentation of a plaque recognizing a trustee's service, or a special press release. Colleges have different methods for introducing new trustees and paying respects to departing ones; one method is not necessarily better than another. With an organized transition process, the new trustee(s) can be welcomed to the college and prepared to fully participate in board activities. Outgoing trustees often will join the foundation board and commit to raising funds and continue their service to the institution.


Disclaimer: This newsletter is offered for general informational purposes only. It is not offered as and does not constitute legal advice

Do YOU have a Question for us? Email your question to: Norma Goldstein