Friday, January 15, 2010

Board self assessment

I mentioned board self assessments in two of my Critical Issues e-letters (The Secret Life of Surveys and On Board), and promised a bit more detail.

The obvious reason to conduct a self assessment is to step back and identify areas where the board might need to correct weaknesses or oversights. But a self assessment can also spark a broader conversation about the board, its practices, and its potential.

Unless a board already does an annual self assessment—which should be standard practice—we insert one at the outset of a strategic planning process. It is important to have trustees reflect about their own role (as a board and as individuals) before attempting to evaluate the organization as a whole.

There are many board self assessment tools. BoardSource offers one that is predictably thorough, and it can be customized to some extent. I have found it especially useful for independent schools, since the National Association of Independent Schools offers comparative data for a substantial pool of prior users.

For relatively new organizations, or ones with particular issues, though, it can be better to come up with a far more individualized instrument. The focus and questions may vary, but the categories, typically, are:

  • Mission
  • Advocacy
  • Fundraising
  • Fiscal oversight
  • Planning
  • Board operations and policies
  • Oversight of the organization
  • Other considerations
  • Individual self assessment

Even for a small group, the most efficient and effective way to conduct the assessment is through an online survey tool. Online tools such as SurveyMonkey (which is the one that I use, but I’m sure there are others equally good) offers easy access for the responders and aggregation for analysis.

As with any good nonprofit stakeholder survey, the assessment plays multiple roles:

  • It educates and informs by means of the questions it asks and the context in which it puts them.
  • It leads the responder to reflect about issues and roles in new ways.
  • It produces valuable information about conditions, perceptions, attitudes and intentions.

Used wisely, a self assessment can lead directly to productive change.

We’ll look at self assessments in our upcoming Wednesday Webinar on nonprofit governance.

No comments:

Post a Comment