How can I get my board engaged? It’s a question I hear frequently from nonprofit executives. To quote Stephen Covey “accountability breeds response-ability.” In other words, does your board know what their work is and do they know how to be accountable for their work? A great tool and opportunity for defining responsibilities is to craft a well -thought -out board evaluation.
In our June Coffee Cup Conversation, we discussed the following approach to board self-evaluation:
• Creating a culture on the board that embraces an evaluation process
• Crafting the right assessment tool
• Using the findings from the evaluation to create an action plan for the board
If the board has never conducted an evaluation, spend some time educating board members about the importance of holding each other accountable for their work. Establish trust among the board by sharing a how the results can be used and why it’s important for board members to look at their work and performance as a team. Use the research from BoardSource’s “Leading with Intent” report. Their findings clearly show that board performance is significantly improved when boards self-assess their own performance within a 3 year time frame.
Your board may want to consider utilizing an outside facilitator who can help you craft the questions and deliver the survey and share the results with the board independently of staff or a board member. There are also examples of board surveys that can be deployed electronically using a tool such as Survey Monkey, and the results collected by the designated board member or staff. Whichever method you choose, you should craft meaningful questions customized for your organization. Be sure to include open-ended questions.
Share and use the results with board and staff to craft an action plan for the board going forward. What were the board’s strengths and how would you make sure those strengths continue to be reinforced? What were the areas of needed improvement and what is your board willing to do address deficiencies. How will they measure and monitor improvement? This can be incorporated in the strategic planning process or used as part of an annual retreat activity.
Creating and following a board action plan based on their evaluation will increase their level of engagement and give them a framework for accountability and response-ability!
-Debra Box, SKC Executive Director