Wednesday, March 7, 2007

Assessing Board Performance

How well is our board meeting its governance and performance goals?

That question has been on my mind a lot lately. I’m part of a relatively new board, in the midst of assessing our efforts to advance the organizational mission. Are we focused on our essential responsibilities? Are we good stewards of organizational resources? Is our board structure conducive to effective work? Can we articulate our organizational mission to others? Do we feel comfortable in our jobs?

Taking time to evaluate your board’s performance is important, to have a sense of your strengths as a leadership group as well as the areas where growth is needed. Regular, formal self-assessment – and the board and individual levels – is one critical step. Our board chose to adapt a self-assessment tool from Jean Block Consulting (go to, select the November 2002 newsletter issue). One of the reasons I like this format: it asks board members to reflect on not only the group’s efforts but our individual progress as well.

Some of us on the board feel like we’re playing dress-up in grandma's closet – like grandma's dresses, the assessment feels way too big for us right now, but we know we’ll eventually grow into the leadership role described. We’ll have more items in the “needs improvement” column than we would like this first time around, but that is okay. This group is committed to growing and expanding our service to the organization and the community.

Self-assessment need not be formal, though. Take some time periodically to stop and reflect as a group. Close your next meeting with a quick check-in: what did we accomplish this time? Did we use our time together effectively? What information did we need to make more informed choices?

Don’t forget to spend time frankly evaluating your own participation and identifying ways to improve your effectiveness. Effective boards lead effective nonprofits.

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