How Board Self-Assessment Strengthens a Board and the Organization it Governs

David A. Mersky imageWe have spent the past year focused on leadership development.  The last aspect of the cycle is assessment and evaluation.  The opportunity to serve on the board and the government a nonprofit organization is an opportunity to contribute skills, experience, knowledge, and wisdom to an organization caring up valuable and vital services for society. Organizations that care for the sick, enrich a community’s cultural life, or provide assistance to the poor cannot achieve their important goals unless they are governed well.

I maintain that the success of any nonprofit venture is directly correlated to the quality of the volunteer and professional leadership of the enterprise.  And, one of the most reliable ways the board of the nonprofit organization can strengthen its performance as a governing board is to assess periodically its own performance—both collectively and individually. A good board stands back from its usual preoccupations and reflects on how it is meeting its responsibilities. This process should look at how the composition, member selection process, organizational structure and overall performance can be strengthened.

A thoughtful, thorough, annual board self-assessment helps:

  • Identify important areas of board operation that need improvement;
  • Measure progress toward existing plans, goals, and objectives of the board;
  • Shape the future operations of the board;
  • Define criteria for an effective and successful Board of Directors;
  • Build trust, respect, and communication among board members; and
  • Enable individual board members to work more effectively as part of a team.

A good board assessment process analyzes areas of board responsibility from the organization’s mission, vision and values to ensuring effective fiscal and risk management, from new board member selection to consideration of the organization’s public image.

Then, each board member should ask how satisfied he or she is within the current structure.  It is important to question whether they are living up to the expectations set forth when first joining the board as well whether he or she is a strong representative of the organization.  Individuals should ask themselves questions like, “whether they are knowledgeable about the organization’s programs and services as well as the agency’s field of endeavor?”  “Do they make a significant annual gift to the organization commensurate with personal circumstances?” “And, does he or she do what she says will do in a responsible and timely manner?”

If you are interested in developing a comprehensive assessment and evaluation process for your organization, please write me at

Last month in this series:
Leadership Roles in the Development Function