Director orientation a process, not an event

Director orientation a process, not an event

Jerving, Jim

Provide the right resources to help new directors succeed

Finding qualified directors is becoming as difficult as competing against 0% financing. Once you recruit a new director, though, the real work begins. So it’s wise to provide an orientation to the credit union.

New-director orientation is the first step in the volunteer development process-and it’s a process, not a one-time event. It gives the new director the information needed to understand the organization’s culture, history, and practices. An effective orientation also fosters a positive environment for learning and building teamwork.

Orientation begins during the first interview, where the board sketches the credit union’s strategies and challenges, along with the director’s duties, responsibilities, and time commitment. A written job description also provides a clear understanding of what the credit union expects of its directors.


The orientation session can take on a variety of forms. My orientation session took place at a local restaurant, where I met fellow directors for lunch. This gave board members a chance to meet me in a social setting while they provided an informal briefing on the credit union’s goals. As a subtext to the meeting, it also gave the board an opportunity to start building a new team.

Another option is a more structured orientation session, which can take the form of an open house or special board meeting. Regardless of the choice, start the session with an informal time to meet the board and staff in a social setting to ensure new directors have people and resources to turn to when they need help.

After the informal networking, the CEO and board conduct the orientation session like a regular meeting, with an agenda that includes instruction on the credit union’s strategic plans. An overview of the credit union system, as well as the director’s various roles, also are key items to discuss.


The Wisconsin Credit Union League offers new-director orientation that covers credit union movement structure, familiarity with balance sheets and operating statements, and duties and responsibilities.

In addition to these basics, further training and development should be customized to fit each director’s needs. As part of our credit union’s orientation program, new directors are required to complete up to six Volunteer Achievement Program (VAP) courses during the first year, depending on the person’s experience. The titles chosen are tailored to the director’s background and experience.

Another resource we provide to all directors is a copy of the “Guidebook for Directors of Nonprofit Corporations,” published by the Section of Business Law of the American Bar Association, and the “Credit Union Board of Directors Handbook,” published by CUNA & Affiliates. We also suggest that directors attend, on an annual basis, one national conference, one local learning opportunity, and at least one chapter meeting.

Because credit unions are heavily regulated, directors should achieve a certain level of financial and regulatory literacy. VAP courses V02 Financial Reports, V409 Financial Management, and V416 Understanding Regulations, provide a framework to become competent in these areas.

Jim Jerving is board secretary for Heritage Credit Union, Madison, Wis., and manager of books and certificate programs for CUNA & Affiliates.

Copyright Credit Union National Association, Inc. Jun 2003

Provided by ProQuest Information and Learning Company. All rights Reserved