How to Assess Board Performance — Part One

Nonprofit organizations conduct all kinds of assessments, from tracking intended program outcomes to assessing whether budgetary goals have been met.

Measuring performance is essential for achieving desired results and maintaining organizational health. We wrote about one client and the impact of assessment in a previous column.

However, despite the many different assessments that nonprofits conduct, we have worked with some high-functioning organizations that have never assessed their board’s performance.

Conducting a board self-assessment (BSA) is a critical element of good board governance, and the data shows it has an impact. According to Leading with Intent: BoardSource Index of Nonprofit Board Practices, “Executives with boards that regularly assess themselves (in the past two years) also rate their boards higher across all areas of board performance…”

The BSA process includes inviting the chief executive and all board members to review their performance as a collective. It invites the board to ask the question, “What is our performance against the roles and responsibilities of governance?

The assessment is confidential so all participants can critique freely without concern. The results are tabulated and shared with the board so that areas of improvement can be identified, areas of divergence discussed, and areas of strength celebrated.

BoardSource recommends conducting a BSA every two years. We encourage our clients to create an annual cadence for evaluation within the organization so that the activity is operationalized and normalized. Choose one month out of the year for reviews and assessments of people. For instance, every February:

  1. The board conducts a self-assessment
  2. The board reviews the chief executive
  3. The chief executive reviews their direct reports
  4. The direct reports review their team members

While there are multiple versions of a BSA, we recommend the BoardSource version because it is comprehensive and benchmarked against national data.

The BSA report is broken into four sections: the people, the culture, the work, and the impact. When you think about your own board, how would you rank their performance in each of these categories?

  • The people section includes board composition, board structure, and board meetings.
  • The culture section includes leadership culture and dynamics.
  • The work section includes mission, vision, and strategic direction; funding and public image; program oversight; financial oversight; and chief executive supervision and oversight.
  • The impact section includes perceptions of the board’s impact on organizational performance.

Our columns for the next three weeks will examine each category of the BSA with the hopes that it will inspire you and your organization to build an assessment of your board into your organization’s operations and performance measurement practices.

Article by: Kerri Laubenthal Mollard, Founder & CEO

2022-04-07T16:29:09+00:00April 7th, 2022|