Hiring and changing top leadership in an organization is one of the scariest but most exciting times in the life of a nonprofit. The staff is nervous, the board is anticipating miracles, and the community and other stakeholders are anxious to get to know him or her.
It is important for the organization to look strategically at developing a process and strategy for familiarizing this new person with the organization so the first 30-90 days go as smoothly and successfully as possible. Once your recruiting is done and the offer is made and accepted, consider the following as part of your orientation plan:
- THE OFFER. As a follow-up to a verbal offer, the board president should draft a letter welcoming the new executive and clearly spelling out the salary, benefits, and start date.
- BEFORE START DATE: Provide the new executive director with all of the internal documents relating to policies and procedures, HR, board manuals, minutes of past board meetings, etc.
- START DATE: The board should mail and e-mail a letter to all of the key stakeholders of the organization. The letter should focus on the executive director’s background and accomplishments. A shorter version of this material should be used as a news release with a digital photo.
- FIRST AND SECOND WEEK: Brief the new executive director during the first few days on all the internal issues, organizational chart, financial picture, fundraising strategies, employee and board issues, etc.
- FIRST WEEK: Schedule necessary training sessions during the first week on the job to familiarize the person with the computer systems, financial statements, databases, etc.
- FIRST AND SECOND WEEK: During the first week arrange to have a different person take the new director to lunch and use this opportunity to invite additional staff, board, and key volunteers to join them.
- FIRST MONTH: Schedule a welcome meeting or an open house (set for between 30-60 days after the director begins working) and invite funders, clients, corporate sponsors, the local media, and other nonprofit leaders to meet the new kid on the block.
- FIRST MONTH: Make sure the board chair and the executive director meet weekly during the first month to work on their relationship.
- FIRST AND SECOND MONTH: Arrange to have the new director meet individually, if possible, with each of the board members to establish a relationship and to assess their strengths.
- FIRST THREE MONTHS: Schedule meetings with key funding sources so the primary supporters of the organization get a chance to meet with the new executive director. This should be done between day 30 and 60 so the new executive has a chance to be more familiar with the organization before these conversations take place.