In my previous article “Five Steps to a Creating a High-Performing Board,” I offered this road map to ensuring your board knew what was expected of them and coaching them toward greater effectiveness:
?1. Ensure the nominating committee is considering your nonprofit’s unique needs at this point in its organizational development
2. Talk through responsibilities—including fundraising—during first meeting with potential board members.
3. Make it clear, during board member orientation, that fundraising is a priority.
4. Support and guide new members in their role.
5. Have board members evaluate themselves—and set goals.
So, once you have the right people recruited, oriented and properly trained, they’re going to need periodic evaluation. This means giving them the time and tools to evaluate their own performance and to receive feedback on their role as a board leader.
Led by the board chair or vice chair, it’s a good idea to ask each member to evaluate their engagement goals and performance every year. In addition, having each member set thoughtful goals on how they’d like to engage in the coming year gives you something to work with as you strive to keep them involved.
After a successful board self-evaluation process is initiated, the next step is to have your board evaluate their performance as a group. The evaluation form should have each member rate the board’s involvement and results in a variety of areas, including:
- Committee structure
- Committee work
- Making introductions
- Cultivating potential donors
- Soliciting donors
- Stewarding donors
- Promoting the nonprofit in the community
- Committee leadership and attendance
- Attendance at meetings
Recently, we suggested a board self-evaluation process and tool for our client Edmarc Hospice for Children, which resulted in thoughtful responses from board leaders and a tool for the executive director to employ in personal follow-up with individual board members. Their executive director describes the experience:
“We’re a health care organization, and I often use the term “vital signs” as an indicator for much of what we do—that even transcends to board performance. Over the years, we’ve fine-tuned the documents used with our board members. It started out with a simple job description, then it became more detailed; we even created a commitment form. But it wasn’t until this past year when The Curtis Group helped us create and implement a board self-assessment form that we gained tangible, useful information. It gave our board members complete control of their performance (or lack thereof).
It’s a two-way document. It gives the board member a chance to evaluate their performance, holding them accountable and allowing them to set their goals for the future. And as an agency, we know what to expect. It helps us identify issues needing clarification and even gaps in skill sets. I think what’s most encouraging is that we’re seeing more of our board members asking, “How can I do even more”? With help from The Curtis Group, this document has helped us set the stage for a healthy and energized board. It really has served as an annual check-up. And Edmarc’s vital signs are strong!“
Deborah Stitzer-Brame, Executive Director
Edmarc Hospice for Children
As you can see, the board self-evaluation process helped members become more intentional about their interaction with the organization and created a new level of accountability. For those newly recruited board members, the process highlighted the importance of the board and its involvement in everything from committee participation to fundraising. For longer-serving members, it offered the opportunity to think about their service, what they wanted out of it and what they could bring to the board. For both, it created a level of intentionality to their board service.
By strategically recruiting the right people for your board, making your expectations clear, properly equipping your board and helping them hold themselves accountable, you can maximize the effectiveness of your board and their impact on your nonprofit.