Here are the answers to key frequently asked questions (FAQs) about board self-assessment.
FAQ #1: How often should my board do a self-assessment?
The best practice is to conduct a board assessment annually. Annual makes sense because it keeps the idea of continuous improvement front and centre in how the board conducts its business. Some boards, may find that assessments on a semi-annual basis may be more appropriate but this depends on the nature of the board. If the board only meets a few times a year, less frequent assessment might make sense.
FAQ #2: Is the tool designed to be used for corporate or not-for-profit boards
Our tool is appropriate for both not-for-profit and corporate boards. We have developed a couple modules that include some questions that are specific to the experiences of certain types of boards. For example, our fundraising module is particularly important when a key function of the board/organization is to raise money.
FAQ #2: Why is anonymity important for self assessments?
We want board members to be honest and our online tool means that directors have the freedom to be honest. The board only gets aggregate results back so it is not possible to link an answer to a particular person. This also helps the board focus on developing a path forward rather than interpersonal conflict or tension. The results are what the results are.
FAQ #3: What should we do with the results of the self-assessment?
Our dashboard style report to the board is designed to give the board an easily digestible view of the results. We recommend that there be a discussion of the results with the Board and a set of 2-3 things the board would like to prioritize. This could be first discussed by a Committee (e.g. Governance Committee) that could digest the results and develop a plan for the Board’s approval. The self-assessment could reveal a need for improvement in a range of things from meeting procedures, staff-board relations, director recruitment or even director behaviour. Ideally, an action plan that assess the priorities, the goals, and the path to achieving them will be developed. And, then the next self-evaluation can measure progress.
FAQ #4: Is my board too small to conduct a self-assessment?
No Board is too small but in practice four or fewer board members may not need the self-assessment tool.
FAQ #5: Should the Executive Director, CEO or other staff participate in the evaluation?
Board self-assessment is primarily about the board reflecting on its own performance. Introducing the staff or executive director, who him or herself reports to the Board, does not generally help the Board think about its role. There are cases when incorporating the executive director might be reasonable and our tool can accommodate this. It is critically important that any non-board members have a good understanding of how a board should work and sufficient contact with the Board.