Tips for Board Member Recruitment, Orientation, Onboarding, & Succession Planning

The life cycle of an alumni volunteer

Understanding the life cycle of an alumni volunteer is a critical part of your recruitment, orientation, on-boarding, and succession planning strategy. This graphic shows the progress and sequence of the volunteer’s experience when we have succeeded.


Recruiting the best and brightest alumni volunteers starts with what and why. What are you, in your alumni community, trying to accomplish? What goals do you have for your board? Do you want to have a scholarship fundraising program? Increase attendance at game-watching events?

After you have determined these goals, based on the IUAA Strategic Priorities, decide what talents you need in your community to accomplish those goals. In a nutshell, here are your steps:


Sample Board Assessment spreadsheet

Here’s an excellent tool for looking at the biographic and ethnic diversity that you currently have and what you may need. Boards can also look at various other qualities like educational variety and business-related talents such as fundraising, marketing, event management, and strategic planning. Your board needs to determine what those qualities are, again, based on the goals that have been established.

Orientation vs. onboarding—what’s the difference?

Orientation is focused on formalities and avoiding problems; Onboarding encompasses how to achieve excellence.

Structured orientations include the following tactics:

  • IUAA and board history lesson
  • Review of IUAA goals, mission, and values
  • Attending board meeting as a guest

Informal onboarding includes the following tactics:

  • Social gatherings to introduce culture
  • 1:1 meetings with seasoned board members
  • Mentorship

What do volunteer leaders need help with?

  • Membership recruitment
  • Processing financial reports
  • Coordinating events from start to finish
  • Managing board recruitment and helping with retention
  • Knowing our “Asks”
    • Keeping membership current
    • Recruiting students
    • Creating local chapter events and scholarship fundraising
    • Voting in Trustee Election
    • Supporting IUAA and/or your group’s signature events

Succession planning

Influential leaders, from engaged attendees to curious participants, to informed promoters

Succession planning is a process for identifying and developing people with the potential to fill key positions. With good planning, experienced and capable leaders that are prepared to assume these roles are always ready.

Success is the accomplishment of an aim or purpose. The root of the word is success but in actuality, success is the FRUIT of succession planning.

Key questions to ask:

  • If the board president were to resign tomorrow, what three people would be prepared to lead the group short-term?
  • What are the strengths and weaknesses of each of those three?
  • What specific skills can address the weaknesses and better prepare them for the leadership role if it comes up?
  • Who is best prepared to succeed the board president long-term?

Talent pipeline: Things to consider

  • Degree, profession
  • Region, campus, location
  • Ethnic and gender diversity
  • Season of life

Other talents to consider:

  • Accountability Master—who makes sure tasks are completed and projects are moving forward?
  • Motivator—who can rally the troops and keep projects on point?
  • Strategist—who has a knack for keeping the big picture in mind?
  • Connector—who knows everyone in town or in your group? Who is constantly thinking of ways to collaborate with others?
  • Thought Leader—who has all the brilliant ideas? Who’s willing to try something new?
  • Unconditional Support—every team needs a cheerleader! Who maintains a positive attitude and chips in when needed?

Success in succession and recruitment

A positive boardroom culture might look like this:

  • Your board members find it enjoyable to come to the meetings.
  • Members like working with each other.
  • Mutual respect is present and members learn from their interactions with each other.
  • Diversity of opinions is welcomed and encouraged.
  • Board meetings are productive and a good use of time.

Even though volunteer board meetings are business meetings that does not mean that fun must be checked at the door. If you are committed to your cause, engage each member in discussion and encourage a respectful expression of a diversity of opinions, your board can tell its own success story.