​Do you remember your first electric co-op board meeting? Of course you do! Most directors recall being a little nervous. Nearly all report their extreme caution about not sitting in the wrong chair.

The number of new directors coming on boards has been on the increase in recent years with 315 newbies in 2014, 409 in 2015 and 100 new faces already in the first quarter of 2016. This trend has prompted some boards to reexamine the way they orient new directors.

An informal survey of new directors over the last year shows that the composition of new director orientation programs varies widely.

Some directors are given a comprehensive and informative orientation program before their first board meeting. Others, well, …are not. Some report their orientation consisted of being given given a pile of binders and told “read these and let us know if you have any questions.” Some are even asked to vote on board officers at their first meeting ten minutes after being introduced to their fellow directors.

Regardless of the orientation provided them, new directors are expected by co-op members, the courts, and regulators to fulfill their fiduciary duties and contribute productively from their first days on the board.

There is no training or apprenticeship period where the new director is immune from liability until he or she feels confident that they are ready to go live. To the contrary, it’s the board’s responsibility to ensure that a program is in place to help the new director ramp-up to fulfill their board responsibilities as quickly as possible.

An orientation program can last a few hours, a few days or longer depending on how it’s approached and what’s included. There is no one size fits all.

Here are three quick resources thaat can help your board design an orientation program for new directors:

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