Energize Your Board with a Board Mentorship Program

Mentor with new board member

Sometimes it seems like every nonprofit is currently searching for engaged, committed board members. You may live in a place where the usual CEOs, entrepreneurs, and political figures’ list of board assignments is already too lengthy to ask them to add your nonprofit too.

So where should you turn when it’s time to rejuvenate your board of directors? Consider a board mentorship program to expand the potential pool of volunteers to your board.

What is a Board Mentorship Program?

A board mentorship program connects experienced nonprofit board members with those new to serving on a board.

Board mentorship programs demonstrate your nonprofit’s willingness to invite a larger pool of people into leadership at your organization. Often groups limit themselves to the typical idea of a board member: someone with years of experience in a valued field, someone with a lot of financial resources, or someone who is extremely well connected in the community. This leads to nonprofits asking the same people repeatedly.

A board mentorship program delivers the best of both worlds by connecting typical board members with a wealth of experience to eager, emerging leaders unsure where to begin.

Critical Elements of a Board Mentorship Program

Like other mentor programs, this idea relies on strong, one-on-one relationships between a mentor and mentee to encourage sharing knowledge and building the next generation of philanthropists.

Board Member Coaches

First, your nonprofit must identify current board members willing to coach someone with little to no experience in serving on a nonprofit board. Consider coaches with a long tenure with your organization and plenty of institutional knowledge.

The best board members for this position are patient teachers who are willing to commit to a regular schedule of communicating with their mentee. Try to choose someone near the beginning of their board term.


All new board members should attend an orientation to get them up to speed on your organization. If you include a board mentorship program, weave this into the orientation process.

Schedule an informal gathering between mentor and mentee for their first introduction. Be sure to set your expectations for the program, like:

  • How many board meetings each pair must attend
  • How often the pair must meet throughout the year
  • Measurable goals for the pair (demonstrated understanding of parliamentary procedure or an increased knowledge of balance sheets)

Structured Check-Ins

Many board mentorship programs require the mentor and mentee to gather and discuss the content of each board meeting. This is possibly the minimum requirement for any program.

The mentee should feel empowered to ask questions about any of the information presented at the board meeting, historical context for decisions made, and what the mentee can anticipate coming next.

It is essential to schedule these structured check-ins to encourage the building of knowledge and demystifying of the process consistently throughout the year. Board mentees should not be left to wonder in silence what is going on at a board meeting.

Signs of a Successful Board Mentorship Program

A useful board mentorship program should develop a continual pipeline of informed philanthropic leaders that can confidently serve on any local nonprofit board of directors.

Builds Relationships

Building relationships is an essential focus for a board mentorship program. Mentees must learn to trust their mentor so they can ask the questions that will help them grow.

A solid relationship with their board member coach can also help these emerging leaders in other ways, like by writing a letter of recommendation or as a reference for a future job.

Shares Knowledge

Nonprofit boards of directors can feel like an insular world with an endless list of secret handshakes required for entry. By implementing a solid and supportive board mentorship program, you can erase the feeling of, “I don’t even know what I don’t know” and help empower and inform the next generations of leaders.

Breaks Barriers

So many willing volunteers are interested in serving on a board of directors, but are not taken seriously because of their short resume, age, limited financial means, or unimpressive social circle. However, once you share the knowledge of how your organization and its board operates, you may be surprised by the array of gifts waiting to be awakened by a mentor.


If you are looking for ways to diversify and energize your board of directors, consider implementing a board mentorship program. These programs connect a priceless resource (informed volunteers with a wealth of knowledge) with a pressing need for many organizations (lack of available, traditional board members).

Board mentorship programs provide a terrific way to breathe new life into your board, especially if board giving minimums are a current barrier to recruitment. Explore this effective model for an effective way to boost your board development efforts.

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