Many nonprofit boards have performance issues. Some are under pressure to improve due to legal scrutiny, others want to boost their worth in the eyes of donors or the community, while other boards must address specific issues of governance. No matter what the pressure, it is best practice for every board to pursue some form of board assessment. A performance evaluation can seem daunting, particularly if this is a new procedure for the board. The right tools and guidance can aid any board in overcoming obstacles and achieve success.
The first step is to understand the problem. The most frequent problems are that the board functions too much as a “rubber stamp” for the decisions of management or becomes involved in operational matters that should be left to desk board the management team and CEO. Additionally, the board might be unclear about its legal liabilities and how to protect itself from them.
In these cases the board must define and clarify its mission as well as provide clear lines of communication between the board and the management team. The board must also make sure that it has the right structures in place to perform its duties. This could be through committees and officer positions that are responsible for gathering and analyzing information about the board’s performance. It is also crucial to follow up on any actions agreed upon that result from a board assessment. Otherwise, the momentum generated during the process of evaluation can fade away.