I’m a big fan of self-assessment. I do it all the time, to the point where if I kept at it, it might not be very effective. I do it because I want to better myself. I want to be sure that I’m doing everything I can to improve at work, at home, anywhere I can. My husband is no stranger to assessment. As an elementary school teacher, he’s subject to it multiple times a year. One thing I’ve noticed is that non-profit boards aren’t necessarily as forth-coming about assessment as they should be. (Really, as they need to be.)
I’ve seen a number of boards that are stacked with board members who need something to do. It looks great when you sit on a board. It makes you look like you know what’s going on, because after all, you’re capable of advising an organization. That said, too many nonprofit boards are littered with folks who might mean well, but have ultimately become complacent about their place on the board and the organization’s mission. They’ve fallen out of love with the organization but still feel like “they owe it to the nonprofit” to stick around. “If I don’t do it, who else will?”
I’ve found that a healthy dose of self-assessment for board members and the board as a whole is important for growth. If you’ve done all you can for the organization, why stick around? It’s true that there might not be anyone else who could step up readily at any given moment, but that might be a more accurate reflection of a board member’s enthusiasm than a lack of willingness on the part of others. After all, you’re a board member of a really great nonprofit! Why aren’t you telling everyone about this organization? Why aren’t you sharing your enthusiasm with your family and friends and anyone else who will listen? Don’t you get excited when your friends share their new favorite toy/tech/website/blog with you? Spread the joy, spread the enthusiasm, and new board members will be found.
But how does one start a board member assessment? How do you even begin? There are a few ways to do it, I suppose, but the easiest and fastest can be done right now. All you need is a printer and a pen. You can even give this to your board members after your next meeting. It’s a quick way to gauge the understanding of your board. Too many “not sures?” It might be time for some board member education. A lot of “no’s?” It’s DEFINITELY time to reassess your board and update some by-laws.
Check out this handy-dandy self-assessment from the Council of Nonprofits. It’s a good way to get the conversation going. It’s a difficult conversation, sure, but your organization deserves it, right?