Measuring Board Performance

The board is one of the more important elements of success for any organization. The more effective the board is the more it contributes to the success of the organization. It establishes the culture of the organization. In short, its performance is an important component of sustainability. Should it receive a periodic performance review?

Are performance reviews worth doing? Or put another way, is it possible to make performance reviews valuable? We think it is possible to have a meaningful performance review. When they are meaningful, people will look forward to them and organizations benefit from doing them. Most important, the clients (those served) will benefit.

Most of us endure performance reviews annually. The review is often subjective rather than quantitative. They often feel like elementary school report card grading ( "gets along well with others", etc.). Is that why any of us were hired? If I play nicely with others, does that make these articles more valuable to you or increase the number of people who read them?

There are quantitative measures that matter to both of us. If the number of subscribers increases each month, it implies that people find value in the content of the articles and the content has broad appeal. It tells Mission Enablers that we are fulfilling our mission of helping others build their capacity to serve. It says the readers are benefiting from the articles because they are recommending the articles and newsletter to others and returning each week to read another article. Thank you for all of that.

Making readership growth a part of my review makes sense. Success in that area is motivational for me. It is valuable for Mission Enablers. It is important to our client base and readership. The review should also be monthly rather than annually. Waiting 12 months to talk about a positive or negative trend is unlikely to benefit the reader, Mission Enablers, or me.

Whether some measures should be reviewed monthly, quarterly, or semi-annual depends on many factors. What is clear is that in a rapidly changing world, annually reviewing a trend is too late.

On an informal but intentional level, quantitative reviews are happening to almost every nonprofit. The recession has caused donors to be more concerned about their donations. Part of that concern is expressed by the question, "Am I receiving value for my gift?" Historically, the answer to the question might be a nice story. Today we expect to hear about quantitative changes in the community.

Today, there is a trend to demand quantitative evidence. If the donor, parents, or family members of those you serve is being judged quantitatively at work, is it unreasonable for them to expect to judge the world the same way?

Society is becoming evidence driven. Our recent evaluation of the government and BP has been quantitative. How long before your community begins rigorously evaluating nonprofits? Some of the high value donors are doing it already and with rigor.

The quantitative evaluation must start with the board. They must set the tone and be the catalyst for change. If the board leads by example the staff is more likely to willing participate.

Many of the boards we work with resist the idea of ​​a board performance review. However, they are happy to review the work of the administrator, principal, executive director, etc. The board needs to set the tone by establishing quantifiably measurable goals for itself and the organization. Part of the minutes from each board meeting should be an evidence-based report on success. This is different from the typical financial review, which is also an important part of the agenda.

Next Step:

Establish goals for each group (board members, board leadership, committees, the organization, staff members, fund development, the clients, etc.)

Ensure the goals are inspirational and motivational for the person or group being measured, as well as valuable to the organization and clients

Require each group or individual to create a plan for achieving their goals

Quarterly, review the progress toward the goal and adjust the plans to ensure the goals will be met (this is different from adjusting the goal to ensure it can be met)

Celebrate success and learn from each goal (whether it was met or missed)

Creating a culture of goal orientation has several side benefits.

Most goals will require the assistance of others, therefore the teamwork will increase (playing nicely with others becomes a prerequisite for success rather than a desired outcome)

Planning becomes a natural response. With fewer unplanned events, there will be fewer unpleasant surprises

Donor loyalty will increase along with generosity

Quantitative success will make it easier to build a reputation for excellence and differentiate the organization from similar organizations

Choosing goals that are meaningful, motivational, and valuable to the individual, the organization, and the clients, significantly increases sustainability

Remember that there are better ways to measure client satisfaction than surveys. The most sincere measure of client satisfaction is referring other clients. Client retention is another very sincere and measureable indication of client satisfaction. Those are two possible quantitative measures for both the board and the staff.

How will your board change the definition of success? When will your board begin measuring everyone's success in meaningful, motivational, valuable, and quantified ways?