Monday, October 29, 2012

Board self-assessment: A few resources

Your board has committed to assessing its performance, but it has no idea what that process should look like. Where do you start?

As I prepare to talk about board self-assessment with Renee McGivern, host of one of my favorite podcasts ("Nonprofit Spark"), later this week, I thought I'd share links to examples of surveys and processes that readers may find useful.

You may find a tool that fits your assessment needs exactly, or you may find one that you are able to customize to address your board's specific goals and challenges. Whichever is the case, I trust that this round-up of assessment resource examples will expand your governance toolbox.

Board member self-assessment template (Next Level Nonprofits). According to the post's author, Marilyn Donnellan, these questions are excerpted from a Next Level Nonprofit guide, The Two-Hour Board Training. This tool takes a simple yes/no approach to asking about a range of board activities; in its original form, it could function as a useful quick-check, individual-level focus on performance.

Board effectiveness quiz (Creating the Future). This tool, also an individual-level evaluation, encourages a slightly deeper look at another broad range of governance role challenges. Part of the questions posed here ask about agreement with a range of statements about your board performance. Your board could enrich the potential of that section by asking for agreement along a continuum (e.g., strongly agree to strongly disagree). The earlier questions naturally invite more nuanced responses, yet they also don't feel particularly overwhelming.

Board member evaluation (Marc Smiley). This is an example of an evaluation based on a board member agreement (an annual commitment excellent boards frequently ask their members to make). It's tailored to a sample agreement posted elsewhere on Marc's site. What I like about this sample is its connection to commitments board members made earlier. Ideally, boards tie at least one part of the ongoing assessment process to their articulated responsibilities (e.g., member agreement, board goals, board job description).

20 questions about your nonprofit board (Meyer Foundation). Another check-off tool that introduces response possibilities beyond a simple yes/no, queries members about topics that are not exclusively role/task oriented.

Nonprofit board committee evaluation (The Moran Company)The title describes what's different about this tool: it looks at a third level of board responsibility, the committee. I probably would add a scale, or similar layer, to flesh out more detail about the strengths and challenges encountered in the groups where much of the detail work takes place. But it's a good reminder of the need to reflect on, and evaluate, all of the board's work to achieve optimal performance.

Key questions for board and senior staff (Anne Ackerson). I love these questions. I love their deceptive simplicity. I also love their focus beyond bottom line board tasks and their invitation to wide-open conversations about high-impact topics. They also have the potential to spark similar questions about governance generally and our board specificially.

Simple technique for board evaluation (Terrie Temkin). A marvelous, simple, personalized approach to individual accountability.

The Board Vector (Alice Korngold). I was a major fan of this rich board self-assessment resource when it first appeared as a downloadable PDF file on Alice's site. Now that it is available online (which adds the confidentiality that fosters honest answers) and provides an analysis of aggregated responses from the board as a whole, its value has expanded. That that report also includes a series of recommended follow-up questions for board reflection adds to its value (a sample report is available on the left side of the page). There is a charge for this online tool, which some boards may find challenging. Those who are able to make the financial commitment will find a rich board development resource.

I have a feeling that I'll have a follow-up after Renee and I chat. We'll see how that conversation ends up expanding my own, growing understanding of board self-assessment. Feel free to contribute resources you use and value via comment. Your fellow readers and I will appreciate it.

Links to related posts:

Building reflective boards: Self-assessment
Self-assessment: The board experience
10 ways to assess board performance
Assessing my own board performance

For a constantly growing list of board self-assessment tools, access my social bookmarks on the topic.


Bonnie Koenig said...

Great resources! Gayle Gifford also has some thought provoking questions in her book "How Are We Doing"

Max Freund said...

Great list! I'm preparing to do a comprehensive board development process with a local organization, so I'll be taking a close look to find which of these would be a good fit.

Have you seen the Board Checkup ( from Yvonne Harrison and Vic Murray? It's free, research-based, and seems fairly well-constructed. One issue I have with it, however, is that the questions are all framed as negatives. I'd be curious to hear your appraisal of it...

Debra Beck, EdD said...

Two excellent additions to the pool of resources, Bonnie and Max. Thanks for that! Gayle Gifford's book is a personal favorite (that I just realized needs to be added to my "must read nonprofit board resources" Pinterest list), for both the content itself and the accessible, practitioner-friendly way in which she presents it.

Max, I'd forgotten about Yvonne and Vic's tool. Thanks for reminding me. It's been awhile since I last had an update (the last ARNOVA conference in DC, I believe); I need to go back and review.

Generally speaking, I'm not a fan of overdoing the negative. One, it ignores the good work that also should be acknowledged and explored (what are we doing right in these cases?). Two, it sets up the board for an inevitably negative experience with the data - which is why some boards tend to shy away from this process.

You've inspired me to go back and revisit that resource.