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The No.1 most important thing to do for new employees and board members…

Onboarding! Are you doing it?

While the term may be clichéd, the act of onboarding new employees and board members offers tremendous benefits to organizations of all types and sizes.

Why is that? Because people like to feel included and can contribute best when they understand the culture, content and context of the organization they serve.

Here at Aly Sterling Philanthropy, we’ve had the great good fortune of onboarding a couple of incredible new advisors over the past few months. We’ve learned a few things along the way and thought we’d share them with you. Here begins the first of our two-part series… join us next week for Part II: Onboard Your Board.

Part I: Onboard Your Employees (or How to Maximize the Potential of That New Hire)

Congratulations! You’ve decided to take the big leap and hire a new staff person for your nonprofit team!

This is an exciting time. Your organization is committed to the position and you know the new person’s skills and abilities are a great fit.

So now what? Do you just show them to their desk on the first day and hope for the best?

At Aly Sterling Philanthropy, we’ve helped many nonprofits find and hire great new team members. However, we know that hiring is just the first step and we encourage nonprofits to build productive, lasting partnerships with employees by investing time in a comprehensive onboarding strategy.

The goal of onboarding is to make employees feel welcome and provide them with the relationships, tools and information needed to be successful. Onboarding activities vary by organization but we’ve included five key tips below to help guide your efforts.

  • Create a welcoming, celebratory culture. We all remember what it was like to be “the new kid on the block” during our first days at an organization. No one wants to walk into a place where coworkers are skeptical of their arrival or surprised by the addition of a team member. Through positive, proactive communication you can create a friendly environment that welcomes your new hire and helps acclimate them to their new role in organization.
  • Follow an Onboarding Plan for the first 30 days. The greatest challenge to orienting a new employee is remembering and covering all of the details. By creating a plan for the first 30 days, you’ll be sure to communicate important information in systematic way and also have scheduled opportunities to check in with your new employee and answer their questions. Your plan should include but not be limited to:
  1. Tours of facilities
  2. Introductions to board and staff
  3. Overview of organization mission and history
  4. HR protocols, payroll, office logistics, policies and procedures
  5. Specific job responsibilities, reporting requirements
  • Have resources and tools prepared for the first day. Dedicate a workspace for your new employee and make sure it is available for their first day of work. Provide office supplies and all technology access (phones, computers, printers) relevant to the job. Print helpful documents for employee reference such as HR policies, financial forms, organizational charts, staff contact information, vendor information and passwords/codes. Having these tools prepared in advance shows you value the new employee and take seriously their role (and yours) in the organization.
  • Introduce and foster relationships with key people. Many times we get so focused on relaying details of responsibilities and logistics to our new employees that we overlook the importance of relationships. Your new hire needs to build healthy working relationships with team members, volunteers and donors. Make sure key introductions are made and time is provided for people to interact and get to know each other on a personal level. Take advantage of staff lunches, donor events, board meetings and other venues to introduce the new person and provides them with the opportunity to take ownership of his or her new role.
  • Provide opportunity for open communication, questions and feedback. When a person begins a new position, there are bound to be plenty of questions! Be sure to cultivate an open line of communication between your new employee and their supervisor. Consider also conducting monthly evaluations for the first 30-60-90 days (and routinely after that) dedicated to communicating with the new employee about their role, their questions and ways the onboarding process can be improved. By creating a “safe” time for questions and feedback, you build trust with your employee who, in turn, feels supported in their role.

With some thoughtful preparation, you can make the onboarding experience one that will create a solid foundation for your nonprofit’s future success. Join us next week for Part II: Onboard Your Board.

For more information about onboarding – for employees or board members – please contact us at

Aly Sterling Philanthropy