I live with an educator and listen to my wife talk about continually assessing students to ensure they are learning and performing the way they need to in order to grow.

As in education, assessment and evaluation are important tools to evaluate how effectively a board is performing and how it is moving the organization forward towards its goals and objectives.

Board member self-evaluation is a tool available to associations in measuring board effectiveness. The board chair can use information gathered from board members evaluating themselves to allow him/her to focus on a board members past contributions and possible future roles and responsibilities as a board member.

We have found that association members don’t mind getting involved (becoming board members) if they feel that their time is well spent working in meaningful and effective ways. Self-evaluation is an effective tool to measure their participation from their own perspective. The evaluation tool (my wife calls them instruments) can be a series of questions that ask each board member to rate his/herself on participation on a scale of 1-5 (agree, somewhat agree, neutral, somewhat disagree or disagree).

In researching the frequency in which boards evaluate themselves, I found an interesting stat from BoardSource (BoardSource is an organization in the USA that promotes board excellence) “According to Nonprofit Governance Index 2010, a report from BoardSource, 60% of boards conduct a formal, written evaluation of the board, and of those that do so, 66% were rated as “effective” by their chief executives.”(1)

A few of our clients have written board member self-evaluation into the policy statements of the organization. This helps the board to understand the value of assessing performance and understanding.

Below is an example of some of the questions that can be incorporated into the self-evaluation and answered on the 1-5 scale:

  • I have a good understanding of the bylaws, mission, vision and programs as they pertain to my role as a board member
  • I have a good understanding of my role and duties as a board member
  • I understand and respect the distinctions between the governance role of the board and the role of the executive director and staff
  • I understand the budget and financial statements
  • I am committed/dedicated to the associations mission
  • I am well prepared for meetings
  • I consistently respect and support board decisions made with due diligence
  • I contribute time and talent, consistent with the expectations for members of this board and my personal capacity
  • I am satisfied with my contributions to the association
  • I carry out assigned tasks in a timely manner
  • I represent the board and association positively to industry stakeholders/the community

Self-evaluation questionnaires should be completed annually and their timing included in the policy statement. Once completed, the chair of the board should review the ratings in order to understand areas where leadership/professional development is needed around the board table and where individual board members might be best suited in future roles.

The board should have a commitment to assessing its performance so that it can identify strengths and areas where it can improve.

Self-evaluation gives board members the opportunity to reflect on their understanding of the association, their roles and duties, the roles and responsibilities of staff, their preparation for meetings, and how satisfied they each are by their contributions to the Board.

In future blogs I will discuss some other common tools available to evaluate board performance.