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Becoming a new board member? Why orientation is an important step

Contributed by Kathleen Townshend, Consultant with MRSB Consulting Services

If you are a new board member with an organization, congratulations! You are no doubt putting your time and unique skill set toward a cause that you feel passionate about. This can be an exciting and challenging time.

Regardless of your previous board experience, receiving an orientation is a crucial part of starting your new role. Board orientation will provide you with the necessary information to prepare for your role so you feel comfortable and can maximize your contribution to the organization to whichyou have decided to commit your time. The key objectives of your board orientation should be to become familiar with the history of the organization, understand the roles and responsibilities of board members, introduce committees and volunteer guidelines, review the board material and get to know fellow board members. It is recommended that board orientation include all members (new and existing) and that it review some key areas:


It is important to learn the background of the organization and to highlight its accomplishments, challenges and milestones over the years. The relevant information you glean from this first step will allow you to understand the organization, what it represents (mission and values) and what the organization wants to achieve (vision and goals). Every organization is unique, meaning this part of the process can be pretty interesting.


You and your fellow board members have the critical responsibility to guide the organization's strategic direction, develop policies, exercise financial stewardship, select and monitor the Executive Director's performance and promote the important work that the organization does within the community. It is important that all board members understand their own role, as well as the difference between the role of the board and that of staff. As a general rule for not-for-profit organizations, the board primarily governs and the staff primarily manages. An effective board does not become involved in the day-to-day operations of the organization (however tempting this may sometimes be!).


Committees and volunteers are the backbone of a not-for-profit organization. There are several committee types (standing, operating, or task force) that the organization might have in place. You should be introduced to the committees and their purposes so you can align your interests and skill set with the committee that speaks to your personal and professional goals.


The board manual is an important reference guide for all board members. A review of the board manual will allow you to ask questions that did not arise during other stages of the orientation. A board manual includes several elements such as board and staff contact lists, overview of programs and services, upcoming events, recent board minutes, bylaws, board roles and responsibilities (including Executive Director), committees, volunteer orientation, strategic plan, recent annual reports and financial statements.


Finally, the orientation session is usually the first opportunity for you to get to know fellow board members. An icebreaker (these can be especially fun) or some other activity is important to acquaint members of the group with one another.

MRSB Consulting Services facilitates board orientation workshops that include tools and checklists for your board and can be used on an ongoing basis. For more information please get in touch with a member of our Consulting Services team.

December issue of Business Matters newsletter now available

Every two months, the Chartered Professional Accountants of Canada publish their Business Matters newsletter. The publication offers readers advice and information on topics around ownership and management, technology, saving money and taxation matters, and is a useful resource for professionals in many areas and industries.

The December issue discusses several topics including how owner-managers can prepare for an aging workforce, how to choose a security technology that is right for your data and what to do when your son or daughter comes to you for help with starting their new business venture.

If you're interested in reading these articles, as well as other Business Matters content, visit our News page.

How to keep your bookkeeper happy (and save some money in the process)

The ever-friendly, ever-fiesty MRSB Bookkeeping & Reporting team gives you some pointers on how you can help keep the client/bookkeeper relationship running extra smoothly, for everyone's benefit.

As bookkeepers, our goal is to provide you with useful, timely information about your business so that you are free to fulfill the important role of managing and growing your company. In short, we like to make your job easier! We realize that sometimes, though, it can sort of feel like you're working for us. So to keep everything running smoothly in the owner/bookkeeper relationship (and to back up our claim that we don't ask for anything we don't need - really!), here are several things you can do to make us happy, thus having more time for what's important to you:

  • If you have time to organize your papers before we see them, great! When they are sorted by sales, purchases, statements, even suppliers, that makes it easier for us and saves time.
  • Designate one place to keep your documents. Set up a box or file and use it. This works both when we come to your office and when you bring your files to us, and will eliminate searching for that important paper.
  • Open your mail! Did you know it is a federal offence to open someone else's mail? Don't make us do it! Seriously, though, there may be time-sensitive information or even a cheque in that envelope. 

  • It is a good idea for owners to review bank and credit card statements. There may be charges that are not business related that we may not recognize. It is also a chance to catch errors or unauthorized transactions.
  • Not all deposits are revenue. You may have made an owner's contribution or deposited a rebate from a supplier. Please provide us with your bank book or copies of the deposit slips.
  • Online banking is your friend, and ours. Have your bank set up access for you and if you are comfortable with the idea, for us as well. This saves an enormous amount of time. If you are not ok with providing us access, you can still go online and print out your statements for us long before you would receive them by mail.

  • We are all about the details. Fill out those check stubs: dates, amounts, payee and description are all important. For unusual purchases, provide an explanation. When we ask for more information it isn't just because we are curious!
  • When you receive financing, make sure we get a copy of all the loan details: interest rate, term, breakdown of payments.
  • If you have employees, we need to know more than just their names (although last names are especially handy). Most important is their SIN, date of birth, completed TD1, wage, benefits, vacation and any other entitlements.
  • If at all possible, bring documents to us up to two weeks in advance of the deadline. While we strive to make you feel like you are our one and only, we do have other clients (you are our favourite, of course).

Ultimately, these steps will enable us to process your information more easily and therefore cut down on the time it takes to do the work. This translates into savings for you on your bill (yeah!). It also saves you time by eliminating unnecessary phone calls between us and keeps everyone smiling. As a final note, if you are looking for a Christmas gift idea for your bookkeeper, we like wine and that order.