How Healthy Is Your Board?

Assessing your board’s performance is the first step to improving it.

 

by Dan Busby and John Pearson

 

The secret of effectiveness is to know what really counts,
then do what really counts,
and not worry about all the rest. [1]

Rick Warren
 

 

How would you rate your board’s recent performance? Evaluating the performance of boards is not as common as it should be. Here’s why:

  • It takes too long and boards do not have time to spare.

  • Ministries fail to recognize the importance of the evaluation concept.

  • There is a lack of easy-to-use evaluation tools.

  • Ministries think, “We are doing pretty well right now.” (Remember: Good is the enemy of great!)

We hear you. So ECFA has developed an online tool called NonprofitBoardScore™ to help your board evaluate its performance. It is very easy to use, absolutely free, and only takes a few minutes to complete.

NonprofitBoardScore™ gives you instant feedback, lets you take the evaluation over and over (you may want to take it every six months or annually), and allows you to save and print the results to share with your board, including a matrix reflecting the results specific to your ministry.
 

NonprofitBoardScore™ Sample Matrix

NonprofitBoardScore_Matrix

www.ECFA.org/Score

What does NonprofitBoardScore™ cover? We look at it this way. Board work is multi-faceted, and we have identified six interrelated elements. Understanding the relative health of each element can help your board make progress across all the elements:

 

Governance
Elements

Sample Topics Included

1.  Spiritual Atmosphere

Scripture reading, prayer, discernment, silence, Christ-centered character, spiritual gifts inventory, humble service, and loving community of grace and truth

2.  Board-CEO Synergy

Regular fellowship, attention to physical health and soul care, board assessment, and annual review of CEO’s performance and compensation/benefits

3.  Intentionality

Clear agendas, Board Policies Manual, Prime Responsibility Chart, 80/20 focus on strategy, risk prioritization, and protection of all God’s children from abuse

4.  Faithful Administration

Avoid conflicts of interest, implement controls to prevent fraud and properly handle designated gifts, budget responsibly, and report with appropriate transparency

5.  Structure and Style

Committed chair, board size, majority of independent board members, roles and responsibilities, meeting frequency, and annual commitment form

6.  Culture

Spirit-led, mission-minded, self-disciplined, proactive, respectful, keen listeners, lifelong learners, integrity, accountability, confidentiality, and full of grace and truth


Every board governance element matters because each one affects all the others. Your board culture will impact your board-CEO synergy; intentionality affects faithful administration, and so forth. This simply means that boards must give every element the appropriate attention.

Progress starts only when you are clear on where you are right now. You may discern that the board is underperforming in a certain area, but until the board has a laser focus on the problem, it will be difficult to take action.

How to use. Ideally every board member including the CEO, should take the survey so the board can compare and discuss the results. Alternatively, the board chair (or the vice chair, if the CEO is the chair) should take the survey for the board.

Four steps to better governance. Take these four steps after completing the survey:

  1. Eyeball your overall self scores. Out of six options for each governance element, review what you said about your board. Are you surprised by the scores that are highest, or the ones that are lowest? How does your evaluation compare to the assessment scores of others on your board?

    1.  Spiritual Atmosphere

    2.  Board-CEO Synergy

    3.  Intentionality

    4.  Faithful Administration

    5.  Structure and Style

    6.   Culture

  2. Scale up your governance. Next, for each governance element where your ministry’s governing body may have the most opportunity for improvement, list the statements that equaled best practices, followed by elements that did not meet best practices. Identify the specific element you would like to work on first. If you’re doing this as a board, make this decision together.

  3. Study the recommendations and resources. Select one or two of the recommendations and resources and commit to report on it at your next board meeting.

  4. Plan to take this board assessment again in six months. Also, why not forward the survey link to friends in other ministries?

Get started now. To determine where your board is right now, take the quick survey. The results of the survey will help your board determine which board essentials needs the highest attention.

 

 

Take the FREE Survey! 
www.ECFA.org/Score

 

 

BOARDROOM LESSON
_______________________________

NonprofitBoardScore™ is an overall evaluation
of how your board is performing. It is not a substitute
for board members performing a self-assessment
of their own work or the more rare peer-to-peer evaluation,
where board members evaluate each other.
 

  Board Action Steps:

  1. Assess: Have your CEO and every board member take the survey at ECFA.org/Score. Save and print the results to review at your next board meeting.

  2. Analyze: As you review areas of strength and weakness, remember that even areas of strength can be improved, but attending to the weaker areas first will produce the most dramatic improvements.

  3. Revisit: Repeat the survey in six months or a year and compare the results. Are the steps you’ve taken making a difference?

 

Prayer

Lord, as we take inventory of our board’s health, please help us to know what really counts, then to do what really counts. Amen.

 


[1] Rick Warren, The Purpose Driven Church: Every Church Is Big in God’s Eyes (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1995), 87.

 

From More Lessons From the Nonprofit Boardroom: Effectiveness, Excellence, Elephants!, 2019, www.ECFA.org/KnowledgeCenter.


This text is provided with the understanding that ECFA is not rendering legal, accounting, or other professional advice or service. Professional advice on specific issues should be sought from an accountant, lawyer, or other professional.

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