Assessing Board Effectiveness

by | Aug 12, 2021 | Boards, Mission, nonprofit, Strategy | 0 comments

It makes sense, even though I haven’t known many, if any, nonprofits who periodically conduct a Board Self-Assessment. Just as I decided several years ago to add Implementation Planning into my strategy process, I’m adding this assessment as well.

A Board Self-Assessment is a process that asks each board member to grade the overall Board’s effectiveness at its ethical, fiduciary, and mission responsibilities.

The more rapidly things change, the easier it is to get off track as we chase the next bright, shiny object to come into view. We become less aware of how our actions are causing us to drift off scope. It’s only when we take a good, long look at ourselves that we can gain perspective. This is true for organizations and individuals.

In researching for this article, I found versions of an assessment ranging from a simple table with 20+ questions, followed by a section to mark whether the answer to the question is satisfactory or needs work to a full-blown 10-page report digging deeply into various aspects of the organization. Below I have listed links to several resources that may help you decide how you might move forward with this important initiative.

Why Board Self-Assessments are Important

Beyond the learning and insights that will come from the actual Self-Assessment, here are three reasons why I think this is an important decision.

  1. You can’t fix what you don’t see. Without assessing current and recent actions and decisions, how will you truly know how you’re doing. Few people have keen perspective without a process that leads you through an evaluation. If done with an open mind and truly seeking to find out how you’re doing, you’ll come away with valuable ideas on how to better serve the mission.
  2. When any group comes together with an intent to serve at the highest level possible, good things are sure to happen. And one of the benefits of going through a self-assessment process is that it brings the board together. While the process can seem intimidating – after all, what if the results show that the board isn’t being as effective as it desires – it’s important to come together, bonding more deeply through this introspective process.
  3. It’s a mini strategy for the board, giving them a road map to improve their engagement and support. By seeing, on paper, where the board is excelling and where it needs work, you have an action plan to enable them to more properly allocate their resources.
  4. Conducting periodic board self-assessments will also move you closer to a Platinum rating on Guidestar.

However you decide to proceed with a Board Self-Assessment, consider using this list as a guide to the areas that you will want to review:

  • Understanding of the Vision and Mission
  • Set committee structure and job descriptions
  • Process for attracting committee members and future board members
  • Specific board and committee on-boarding process
  • Participation in committees and special work groups
  • Study and understanding of financial structure, needs, and reports
  • Preparation and adherence to Strategic Plan
  • Appropriate oversight and interaction with leadership
  • Understanding and monitoring of program outcomes
  • Spreading the word about the agency in the community
  • Financial support (give or get?)

Approach the Board of Directors gently with this project. Some members may get skittish, especially if they feel they may not measure up. No matter, it’s an important exercise to go through every few years. You won’t be disappointed in what you learn. Because board members serve a mission, they’re likely to get over any jitters when they understand the benefits the Assessment can provide.

Resource Links:


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