Why should boards evaluate themselves? A strong, vibrant Board is an indicator of a healthy organization. Board assessment should be ongoing and touch many areas of the organization. It should be tied back to an organization’s strategic plan, to an organization’s financial stability, and to an organization’s ongoing capacity to serve clients. Surprisingly, in the most recent “Leading with Intent Survey,” a governance survey conducted by BoardSource, only a slight majority (51%) of organizations reported that they use a formal, written self-assessment to evaluate their board' effectiveness.
It is important to note that board evaluation is a process and should involve many aspects of the organization, including governance, fundraising, board meetings, board committees, and many others. What areas are evaluated should be agreed upon by the Board and the Board should be open to learning and willing to improve and make changes.
Board assessment can offer an opportunity for robust dialogue around best practices and how implementation might occur.
Board evaluation can take many forms, from a formal survey to hiring an outside facilitator to conduct board member interviews. It could also be through group discussion at a board retreat. Whatever form the evaluation takes, it is important for Boards to make the commitment to do it.
Boards also have a responsibility to assess their CEO. A CEO assessment allows the CEO to remain accountable for his/her performance. Accountability starts with the CEO having a well-defined and well-documented job description and annual goals. The CEO should have a hand in determining annual goals and they should be mutually agreed upon. Goals should be measurable and achievable and reflect tactical initiatives as outlined in the strategic plan.
CEO assessment should be annual and preferably takes place at the same time each year. It should be a defined process and one that the full board bears collective responsibility for. Remember that one of the key responsibilities of the board is to select, support, and evaluate the CEO. Above all, the CEO evaluation should be conducted confidentially and respectfully, as all personnel matters would be handled.
This blog was written by Academy for Nonprofit Excellence Instructor, Amy Nisenson.