There are 1000s of boards. Every corporation and not-for-profit has one. They are critical to organizational success as they ensure proper financial accounting and set the strategy and priorities for the future. Conducting regular board self-evaluations is an essential part of good governance. There is good reason to believe that many organizations do not take this step or struggle to undertake board self-evaluations because they lack one or all of three things: organizational capacity, survey experience and skills within the board or staffs, or time.
Consider who sits on boards. The skills and experience of board members across the range of these organizations varies considerably. This is likely to be especially true for not-for-profit boards which are often populated by volunteers. Many boards often also lack organizational resources to undertake board activities like surveys because much of the effort and resources is associated with critical organizational activities. Research and analysis skills are likely to be rare on boards.
The Board Evaluation Tool fits nicely into this world for a couple of reasons.
First — Ease of Use
The survey that is used is comprehensive in that it covers the key areas that are critical to board governance but being comprehensive does not mean complicated. The tool does not require any human intervention by the Organization beyond letting us know who is on the board. The tool is administered online to board members so it is (a) easy for Board members to answer; (b) easy for the Board to administer. There is no need for the board or a committee to try and decide what to ask, to print out and then collate paper forms (or figure out how to program and launch a survey in an online tool). It just happens so board members can focus on their other activities.
It is also easy to interpret. When it comes to interpretation, the Board receives a dashboard that focuses attention on key performance metrics, including the top 3 areas of good performance and the top 3 areas the Board may want to work on.
Second — Cost Effective
By leveraging technology, for the first time Boards will be able to access a high quality research product at a fraction of the cost of hiring a consultant to conduct the survey. We believe this addresses a critical barrier for organizations. It also leaves organizations with resources to spend on real consulting advice, if they need it.
Third — Annonymous
In the survey research world, anonymity is a key. We know that people are more honest when they know their views are not specifically being attributed to them. Unfortunately, many board surveys are everything but anonymous. Often someone on the Board or the organization is tasked with collecting and collating the results so someone knows who said what.