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How to Successfully Transition a Board of Directors

The success of any Board of Directors lies in a successful transition from one body to the next. The goal of this section is to provide a structured format for the successful transfer of information, suggestions, goals, ideologies and challenges to the new board member so they are armed with everything they will need to be successful in her new position. It is imperative that both outgoing and incoming board members have the opportunity to visit one on one, in a structured and facilitated forum, allowing them the chance to discuss what was accomplished in the current year and set expectations for the coming year.


Below is a great format for an association’s board transition event.

Mandatory Attendance: Current sitting Board and incoming Board

PART I: Opening (15 minutes)

Opening comments from facilitator, review of session objectives and collection of attendees objectives.

PART II: Introductions (5 minutes)

Introduction of outgoing Board members and incoming Board members (pair them up, position to position and sit them next to each other)

PART III: Current Board Member Transition Checklist Presentation (1 hour)

This part is designed to allow the outgoing (current) Board member to present their pre-prepared Transition Worksheet (see below) to the incoming Board member. This part will also allow the incoming Board member time to ask questions of the outgoing Board member.

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1.) SUCCESSES: My biggest successes were…

2.) CHALLENGES: My biggest challenges were…

3.) TOOLS & RESOURCES: The tools and resources I used after I accepted this position to help me better do my job work…

4.) INTERDEPENDENCIES: The staff, board members, committees and other outside sources that were instrumental in my success were…

5.) RECRUITMENT: The best way to recruit volunteers for my team was…

6.) TEAM PLAYERS: The 2 committee members I counted on the most were…

7.) BUSINESS PLAN: My S.M.A.R.T. objectives/actions found in the overall business plan for this year were…

8.) METRIC: My S.M.A.R.T. goals found in the dashboard metric were…

9.) BUDGET: This position [is/is not] a revenue-generating position. My budgeted expenses this year were $_and my budgeted revenue was: $_.

10.) TIME ALLOTMENT: The average amount of time I honestly spent doing my job per month/week this year was ___ hours per____.

11.) DOCUMENTATION: The outgoing Board member needs to review pertinent documents such as sample committee meeting minutes, team status reports and job descriptions, relevant to their position.

Is crucial that the outgoing board member prepare this information!

PART IV: Incoming Board Members Not Transitioned (1 hour)

This part is designed to allow the outgoing (current) board members taking new positions on the incoming board to be transitioned “to”, as well as those additional new board members who had not been transitioned to as of yet. In the event there is a discrepancy and they do not have someone to transition from (because that person is sitting somewhere else in the room), I designate proxy will be identified prior to the event to fill in (e.g., staff member, outgoing Board member not sitting on the incoming Board, etc.)

PART V: Board Orientation (30 minutes)

Once the transitions have been completed, we will conduct a New Board Member Orientation. Having the old Board there will help with this process even though, in theory, they don’t need to stay.

PART VI: Open Discussion Forum (30 minutes)

Once Part III, IV, and V have been executed, a general discussion involving the entire room will be facilitated with open questions and answers for additional information on role specifications, team interdependencies, resource allocation, etc. The goal of this part is to give one last opportunity for both incoming and outgoing board members to offer any last questions or suggestions on the current year or the upcoming fiscal year.

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Board Orientation: Pointers for a Successful Orientation

Every fiscal year, our association will be operating under new leadership. Providing new board members with an overview of the organization, their fiduciary duties, and their limits of authority will help make for a successful transition and orientation. Here are some of the things to consider when planning an orientation for your new board members:

1.) Provide an overview of the organization

2.) Ask members to discuss their goals

3.) Define the role of the Board

4.) Explore the Boards limits of authority

5.) Explain produce fiduciary duties. The responsibilities of Board members are captured in three well-established legal duties:

a. Duty of care

b. Duty of loyalty

c. Duty of obedience

6.) Discuss liability issues

As part of the orientation, Board members should be assured that the bylaws contain an indemnification provision (if they do) that obligates the association to assume the financial responsibility for legal expenses that arise from their proscribed volunteer service. In addition, if appropriate insurance safeguards are part of the association’s insurance portfolio, Board members should be advised of this as well. Board members serving organizations that have elected to go without liability should be notified of this advance of their Board service.

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