Board Evaluation – Basic Steps to Maintaining Good Governance on Your BoardMay 4, 2016
(Full article can be found in the Leadership SIRCUit – Winter 2016)
Good governance is the goal of all not-for-profit sport organizations and having an effective Board of Directors is a key tool in achieving good governance. In order to make sure that your Board is performing to its best capacity a regular Board Evaluation should be integrated into the organization’s governance procedures. Most Boards perform some level of performance assessment whether they realize it or not, making sure that the process is formalized should be seen as a positive step in maintaining governance standards.
Why is it important?
At its most basic level, Board evaluation provides a framework for accountability and transparency to all stakeholders of the organization (members, funders, staff clients, and the broader community). Evaluation should be tied directly to the outcomes and results outlined in an organization’s strategic plan.
As a key part of Board structure, Board evaluation
- Contributes to governance alignment
- Can uncover warning signs of ineffective Board focus
- Can contribute to Board renewal
- Is an effective way to gain feedback on the performance of individuals and the Board as a whole
- Provides opportunities to learn how to improve the work of the Board
- Identifies Board training and development needs
- Can be used to identify or clarify individual and collective responsibilities thereby building a positive governance culture.
Regular assessments of the performance of the board and directors can help bring to light numerous governance issues, such as:
- Strategic or mission disconnect
- Lack of clarity around roles, mandates and accountabilities
- Undue influence of or reliance on a particular person or stakeholder
- Information asymmetries
- Poor staff relations
- Ineffective Board/Committee leadership or succession planning
- Lack of board engagement or inability to address key issues
- Weak oversight of risk, financial reporting or other areas
How do we get it done?
There are a number of ways a Board can evaluate and analyze Board performance both from an individual lens and for the Board as a whole. An organization may hire an independent consultant to manage the process or conduct it through an internal process. Either way, it is the Board’s responsibility to decide on the process and to ensure that the evaluation is implemented and results reviewed.
Board evaluation should focus on:
- Board management practices (meetings, roles, committees, terms of reference, etc.)
- Board development (succession, recruitment, orientation and structure)
- Board goals, mission, and strategic plan
- Risk Management
- Evaluation of the Executive Director
In order to establish a clear evaluation process it is suggested a Framework for Board Evaluation (Better Boards) should be set in place. Reviewing these questions within the Board will help guide the evaluation planning process and provide a practical approach to Board and director evaluation.
1)What are our objectives?
2)Who will be evaluated?
3)What will be evaluated?
4)Who will be asked?
5)What techniques will be used?
6)Who will conduct the evaluation?
7)What will you do with the results?
Some of the tools that will assist organizations in their evaluations include surveys and questionnaires, self-assessment tools, personal interviews, and focus groups.
Beyond Board and director assessment, one important aspect of Board evaluation is know what skills are present on the Board, which skills are desirable for the Board, and by extension identifying where the gap between these two lie. Not only will knowing this information aid in the evaluation of your current Board and its capacity, but it is an essential starting point in succession planning and Board recruitment. Having a Board Skills Matrix to perform this assessment is a critical tool in the evaluation process.
A Board will need to decide the lens through which they are assessing skills. There are a number of competency areas that an organization may wish to have represented through the Board and priorities for these areas should be identified. Attributes such as professional experience, personal talents (networking, fundraising, conscientiousness, etc.) and diversity (gender, age, ethnicity, geographic location, etc.) will need to be incorporated into the matrix. Some of the competency areas/professional experience for a sport Board may include (not exhaustive):
- Sport industry/sector experience or knowledge
- Other related industry/sector experience or knowledge
- Subject-specific expertise
- Strategic Planning
- Risk Management
Regular Board assessment helps to ensure that proper governance and Board standards are maintained. The evaluation process does not have to be long or arduous. Having all Board members onside with regular assessment helps maintain clear governance structures and operations leading to effective organizational operation.
Beck, J. (2013). The Path to Effective NFP Board and Director Evaluations. Better Boards.
Canadian Society of Corporate Secretaries. (2015). Board Committees and Board Evaluations.
Deazeley, B. (2010). Overcoming the Fear of Board Assessments. Imagine Canada.
Harrison, Y. (2012). Self-Assessment of Board Performance. Better Boards.
The information presented in SIRC blogs and SIRCuit articles is accurate and reliable as of the date of publication. Developments that occur after the date of publication may impact the current accuracy of the information presented in a previously published blog or article.