The Board Evaluation: Take a Look Under the HoodDec 05, 2023
It is that time of year. Board evaluation! But who do you assess? Against what criteria? And what do you do with the results? And the sad truth? Not so many of you commit to improvement.
Yes, it's true. Board evaluation is a key component of effective governance, but not all boards engage in a regular year-end review.
So why do we assess our performance? For many good and valid reasons. We want to get better. That’s true, isn’t it? And how can that happen if we don’t have an open and honest discussion of our strengths and areas for improvement? As important perhaps, we want to model our commitment to continual improvement to the senior staff. That too is true, isn’t it?
Research suggests that most not-for-profit boards evaluate their own performance in some way. However, the frequency and depth of these evaluations vary widely. You need to be clear about the purpose – continual improvement to ensure that you are advancing the mission of your organization. You need to be clear about the criteria – best practices, implementation of strategic plans and work plans, board behaviours and culture, board member agreements.
When looking at the percentage of not-for-profit boards that evaluate the chair's performance, the numbers fall to just over half. Our recommendation is that the chair be assessed mid-term, to allow time for improvement and growth. What is the point of a review at the end of a term when there is no prospect of change?
Again, the criteria should be clear and embedded in the chair’s role description and work plan.
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You may want to consider a review of individual committee performance, especially the core committees -- Governance, Policy and Planning, Program Review and Audits – and perhaps the committee chairs.
Numbers continue to tumble when looking at a review of the individual board members, but this evaluation process helps ensure that board members are fulfilling their responsibilities and contributing to your mission. Are they making a contribution? or just taking up space? Do they add to deliberations? Do they work on a committee? How well? Do they abide by your agreements and code of conduct?
Individual board member assessment could include self-assessment, peer assessments, anonymous or signed. They could be given just to the board member or to the chair or designate for compilation.
Evaluations or assessments should be simple, straightforward and likely done during a meeting so you are sure that they are completed. They should also result in a work plan for improvement. At the Board level, this would likely be done by the Governance Committee, which would compile the results for Board review and develop an improvement plan for Board approval.
Our mission is too important to allow the Board and its members to think that they are above review and improvement. We can all get better, and we must.
What are your main “pain points” dealing with board evaluations?
What advice would be most helpful to you?
And we always assume that you are asking for a friend!
Get in touch. We’ll address your questions and concerns in an upcoming blog post.
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