One of the best practices in nonprofit board governance is having the board complete a board assessment on a regular basis. In the past, many nonprofits did not engage in a board assessment, and today, it is common knowledge that what gets measured gets done. However, I still find that many (perhaps most) boards do not engage in any sort of assessment.
A board assessment provides the board with an opportunity to look at themselves as a unit to determine, “what are we doing well?” and “where can we improve?” It is not an opportunity to critique the executive director, individual board members or programs of the organization. Like most assessments, a board assessment should be done on a regular basis, for many highly functioning boards, this means the assessment is completed annually.
To get started, it is often most helpful for the board to determine whether the timing is right for an assessment. It may be best to wait if there is conflict between organizational leadership and the board. One or two board members must be willing to commit to leading a governance committee that is responsible for starting the assessment and seeing it through its completion. In addition to the time that it takes to complete the actual assessment, it will also be necessary for the board to be willing to take the time to evaluate the results; this is often done with the assistance of a consultant who can guide the discussion about the results and assist with the development of an action plan.
The action plan is an important part of the process. It should outline key areas where the board will focus their development over the course of the next year. Then, the Executive Director and the Board President can work together to ensure the development happens in the form of training. This training may be provided in short snippets at each board meeting or in the form of a bigger board retreat format.
We have found that when a board assessment is mentioned to many nonprofits, there is an inward groan amongst board members. However, a board assessment does not have to be viewed with dread. Instead, look at a board assessment as a way to celebrate the areas where the board is strong and an opportunity to develop a plan of action for areas where some work is needed.
For those of you looking for ways to provide training to your board in a format that is short and affordable, check out our Boardflics videos.
Is your organization ready for a board assessment? Give us a call today, we can help!