Some Tips for a Successful Board Self-Examination
There comes a time (or times) when every person or group of people need to take stock and do a little self-examining. This is no less true when it comes to nonprofit boards. One way boards can do this is with a self-assessment.
Marla Bobowick, vice president of products for BoardSource, a company that helps strengthen nonprofit boards through consulting, publications and other resources, recently took some time to speak with FS about how and why boards should examine their performance through self-assessment.
“Organizations change and evolve, and the boards need to evolve with them. But when you think about how hard it is for an individual to change, extrapolate that and then you have 17 individuals — the average sized board — who are not closely involved in the day to day of the organization. Think how hard it is to get that to start to change,” Bobowick says. “So the self-assessment process — just even that activity — helps speed that process up and gives you a chance to say ‘Here’s our goal, let’s do it together.’”
Bobowick says, first off, board self-assessments should not be initiated in times of crisis or in a new CEO’s first week on the job. Common times to do self-assessments are before going into strategic-planning mode or prior to a feasibility study.
It’s important that the board members agree to do the self-assessment. The members should give the organization formal approval that they’re doing a self-assessment, give an idea of the time frame and who’s going to facilitate it.
“I’ve seen them facilitated by staff, and it almost always fails because the staff is busy trying to push [the board] in a certain direction. It’s not intentional and it’s not manipulative; it’s just that they see things from a very different perspective,” Bobowick says.