Monday, July 20, 2009

Would You Pass the Board Pop Quiz? - Board Orientation, Education and Assessment

The following post was written by Mac Ryerse, who was the Project Manager for the Charities Review Council Standards Revision project and is a member of the Charities Review Council Board Development Committee.

Take the following quiz on the attributes of effective and engaged members of nonprofit boards of directors (think of your organization; check all that apply)

My organization’s directors…..
□ believe in and support’s the organization’s mission;
□ prepare for and regularly attend board meetings;
□ draw on their professional and personal experiences to guide their decision-making
□ are not afraid to challenge assumptions and plans when warranted
□ possess a sound knowledge and understanding of the organization’s operations and finances
□ desire feedback on their collective performance and seek to improve

While this list is neither exhaustive nor authoritative, many organizations are discovering that the last two items (sound knowledge of the organization and a process to gather performance feedback) may contribute more to board effectiveness than all the others.

The Independent Sector Principles for Good Governance and Ethical Practice suggests nonprofit boards adopt systematic processes for orienting new directors to the organization and for providing regular “education” to all directors on topics that enhance their knowledge of the organization. Further, a regular process of self-assessment helps boards identify strengths and weaknesses that may have an impact on overall organizational and mission effectiveness.

This standard is intended to encourage nonprofits to provide orientation to directors within one year of their commencement of board service, to provide ongoing education on important organization- or mission-specific topics to all directors at least annually, and to provide a survey instrument to their boards for purposes of their self-assessment at least annually. The Council will provide sample documents and technical assistance to nonprofits seeking to adopt these practices.

Would your organization benefit from adopting a board orientation and education program? Would a self-assessment of the board be viewed as “intrusive”? Besides a time burden, do you see any drawbacks to adopting these practices?

Next post: Chief Executive Assessment & Compensation

1 comment:

Julie Garland McLellan said...

In my experience of serving on non-profit boards and in consulting to boards I have found that most boards do not view a board performance assessment as intrusive. A well designed process will help board members to help the organization. Most directors want to do thebest they can for their organisation.
As long as the process is not a poorly designed ploy to oust some boards member(s) or overly bureaucratic and adding little to improving performance it will be welcomed.