Good Governance: Board Assessment

Last time I wrote about the importance of nonprofit boards’ duty of assessing the organization’s executive director, or if you prefer, the CEO or president.  A very important and necessary basic responsibility of the board of directors.

This post is about evaluating the boardnonprofit board

OK, it seems obvious that the main employee of an organization should be evaluated periodically, if not annually. Especially if the individual is paid, but it’s not a bad thing if they aren’t either.  So the next question, is why should we take the time to assess the board? Really – we’re volunteers!

There are plenty of good reasons and I’m going to tell you a few you can’t ignore.

  1. To determine if the board is doing it’s best.
  2. To find out what the board as a whole thinks of how it’s doing.
  3. To find out what individuals know about their responsibilities.

Simple. Straight forward. Fairly easy to accomplish. Not painful.

Outside or Inside?

A board evaluation can be done by an outside consultant service or in-house as a self-assessment. There are online assessments and consultants who will undertake a board evaluation but it is likely that both of those will charge a fee and that may present a hindrance to a tight budget.

On the other hand you could find a prepared, generic assessment and administer it to your board members, but the downside of that is they may not answer honestly if they know you’ll be looking at their answers.

Consequently my preference is actually a combination of the two. You can distribute a generic assessment, or tweak one to address your organization’s specific needs, but then have your board members mail their completed questionnaire to a third party for tallying. This way their answers can remain anonymous and they’ll be more likely to be truthful with their answers.

There are several resources available for assessment in the form of questions, surveys and self-evaluation which will make this responsibility manageable for any board.

Where do you start?

Start by asking the dubyas:

  • Why do you want to assess the board?
  • What do you want to know?
  • Will knowing the answers help?
  • Who will create the assessment?
  • Who will tally the answers?

Have questions?  Give the PCNRC staff a call or email and we’d be happy to help. By the way, board assessment is a service that the Paul Clarke Nonprofit Resource Center offers free to Allen County nonprofits.

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