Your opinion is crucial! How effective is governance at the XX Organization? Share your ideas. Thanks. Please return your completed survey to __ via snail mail or fax to ___.

Information about you:       Staff member           Board member (specify # of years __)

Section I: Your role as a Board member

1. When you were asked to serve, to what extent were the following presented to you? (write in 1 through 5, 5=to a very great extent, 4=to a great extent, 3=to a little extent, 2=to a very little extent, 1=no opinion)

  • Expectations of the Board and you as a Board member _____
  • Overview of the organization and its opportunities and challenges. _____
  • Specific skills and expertise you are expected to use on behalf of the organization. _____

2. How satisfied are you with the following?

  • Level of information, support and guidance to do your job as a Board and Board member. _____
  • Ability of the organization to use your skills and expertise. _____
  • Ability of the organization to engage your interest. _____

3. How would you rate the Board’s overall performance on a scale of 1 – 5 with 5 being high? _____

4. What are the 3 most important things the Board of the organization does? (Now try answering this question like this: What are the 3 most important things your board should do? What’s the difference?)


5. What are the 3 most important things that a Board member of the organization does? (Respond to this version: What are the 3 most important things your board members should do? What’s the difference?)


6. What are your top 3 areas of concern regarding Board effectiveness?


Section II: Assessing the Board of Directors (write in Y=yes, NI=needs improvement, N=No, or ?=don’t know)

  • Composition of the Board of Directors
    • Leadership (board and staff) understands that deep diversity contributes to organizational success, and is committed to achieving diversity. _____
    • Recruitment process considers issues of diversity, e.g. gender, generation, sexual orientation, ethnicity, socioeconomics, skills, etc. when identifying candidates for Board membership. _____
    • Board composition reflects the organization’s constituencies, coupled with the skills and knowledges necessary to do governance. _____
    • Bylaws limit tenure and ensure rotation of Board members, and the Board enforces these. _____
    • Written recruitment policies and procedures – used and reviewed regularly – include:
      • assessment of boardroom expertise and identification of gaps _____
      • personal interview process to screen candidates _____
      • performance assessment of incumbents _____
    • Board discusses the types of behaviors that contribute to group effectiveness, seeks individuals who behave accordingly, and avoids individuals whose behaviors negatively affect the group. _____
    • Board member qualifications and performance expectations are clearly articulated, orally and in writing, and are enforced. _____
    • The Board is of sufficient size to assure adequate diversity, expertise, and quality conversation to fulfill its obligations. _____
  • Selection, recruitment and evaluation of Board members
    • Recruitment process ensures balance of experienced individuals to guarantee continuity and new members to encourage new ideas._____
    • Candidates are personally interviewed and their adherence to performance expectations is secured before nomination to the Board. _____
    • In addition to general expectations of Board membership, each candidate under consideration is asked to use a specific skill/expertise on behalf of the organization. _____
    • Throughout the year, the recruitment process identifies and cultivates candidates for consideration. _____
    • Recruitment process solicits candidate suggestions from staff, committees, and Board members. _____
    • Chief executive officer (CEO) of the organization participates in Board member recruitment, development, and evaluation. _____
    • Regular performance evaluation of Board members distinguishes between those who should be invited to continue service and those who should be thanked and released. _____
  • Orientation and development of the Board
    • An orientation is conducted annually for newly elected Board members. _____
    • Board orientation – and supporting information – includes review of such items as roles, responsibilities, and limitations of staff and Board; overview of mission and services; committee operations; and, strategic opportunities and challenges. _____
    • There is a process to ensure that new Board members feel welcome and fully integrated into the Board immediately. _____
    • Board and staff understand how differences (e.g., ethnicity / race, class, gender, sexual orientation, and so forth) contribute to privilege and produce power dynamics that affect group effectiveness. _____
    • Board and staff are committed to acquiring cultural competence, e.g., learning new skills to communicate and work effectively across differences such as gender, socioeconomic, class, etc. _____
    • Education and training opportunities are provided to build Board member skills and knowledge. _____
  • Board monitoring of organizational health
    • The Board effectively inquires into major performance deficiencies. _____
    • The Board spends time discussing short- and long-term challenges and opportunities facing the organization. _____
    • Strategic discussion by the Board proposes changes in organizational direction when necessary. _____
    • The Board ensures that there is:
      • consistency between priorities and resource allocation _____
      •  sufficient resources for the future _____
      • sustainability for the organization _____
    • The organization has a strategic plan that includes vision and goals, and strategies to achieve vision. The plan also includes commentary on financing, monitoring progress and evaluating performance, general timeframe, and assignments of accountability. _____
  • Board operations
    • Board members understand the organization’s values, mission, and vision, and behave accordingly. _____
    • The Board understands that corporate governance is a collective act and only happens when the Board is together, hence the stringent requirement for Board member attendance, preparation, and participation. _____
    • Board officers – including the Board Chair – understand that they have no more authority than any other Board member, and behave accordingly. _____
    • Board members understand that conversation is a core business practice and foster group dialogue, diverse opinions, candor, and participation by all. _____
    • The Board is comfortable with questioning, disagreement, and conflict – understanding that this produces new thinking and learning. _____
    • Policies define scope of authority and limitations in various areas, for example:
      • role of the Board of Governors _____
      • performance expectations of the individual as a Board member _____
      • role of officers _____
      • committee roles and operations _____
      • conflict of interest / code of conduct _____
      • chief executive officer (CEO) _____
    • The Board holds itself, its officers, committees, and individual members accountable to honor commitments, and respect limitations of authority. _____
    • Communication regarding Board business is appropriately frequent, timely, and informative. _____
    • Staff appropriately enables the Board, its committees and members to fulfill governance obligations and avoid management. _____
    • The Board distinguishes between management and governance and discusses and resolves any such conflicts in partnership with the CEO. _____
    • The Board doesn’t allow any single entity – e.g., an executive committee – to limit the Board’s authority. _____
    • Board members know the difference between Board membership and working as a volunteer within the organization, and behave accordingly. _____
    • Each individual member contributes to effective group performance. _____
  • Board / CEO Relations
    • Board understands and respects its equal partnership with the CEO. _____
    • Board has a process to assess the CEO and does so annually. _____
    • Board recognizes that the CEO serves as the organization’s spokesperson. _____
    • The Board has an appropriate level of involvement in CEO succession. _____
    • The Board holds the CEO accountable to serve as the primary resource for understanding and promoting good governance, and effectively enabling the Board to fulfill its governance obligations. _____
  • Board meetings
    • Board meetings are well organized, focusing on priority issues and handling routine matters quickly. _____
    • The Board engages in substantive strategic conversation and decision-making at meetings, rather than focusing on reports. _____
    • Board meetings occur on a regular schedule – and frequently enough – to ensure group cohesion, continuity, and strategic conversation that produce learning. _____
    • Board members receive relevant information for advance review in order to come to meetings prepared to think and talk strategically. _____
    • Board members share accountability for group process and help intervene if inappropriate behavior disrupts work at Board meetings. _____
    • At least 2/3 of the seated Board members attend each Board meeting. _____
    • Board members are well prepared for each meeting, focus on strategic issues, and contribute meaningful questions and comments to Board dialogue. _____
    • The Board chair facilitates candid dialogue and manages group process. _____
    • Concise, accurate minutes are distributed in a timely fashion after each meeting. _____
  • Committee or task force operations
    • The Board understands the distinction between governance committees – which report to the Board and help the Board do its work – and management committees, which are established by and report to the CEO. _____
    • The strategic plan and organizational issues and priorities guide committee and task force work. _____
    • Responsibilities of committees/task forces are clearly articulated. _____
    • A Board member chairs all governance committees and task forces. _____
    • Board members and non-Board members serve on committees and task forces, including those that focus on governance, e.g., finance, audit, board development, etc. _____
    • Committees / task forces engage the Board in strategic dialogue and decision-making instead of merely making recommendations. _____
    • Chairs of committee / task force provide appropriate leadership by:
      • facilitating active participation from all members _____
      • monitoring activity through regular contact with members _____
    • The Board chair provides appropriate leadership to committee / task force chairs by:
      • presenting roles and limitations in partnership with the chief executive _____
      • monitoring activity through regular contact with chairs _____
    • The Board decides whether an executive committee (or some other similar committee) adds sufficient value to compensate for potential disempowerment of the Board. _____
  • Evaluation of the Board
    • The Board regularly assesses its own performance and makes improvements as needed, e.g.:
      • The Board chair, CEO, and Governance Committee monitor the Board’s processes both inside and outside of meetings. _____
      • The Board and its leadership – staff, officers, and Governance Committee – stay current on governance standards promulgated by various sources, as well as legal and regulatory demands. _____
    • Relationships between Board, staff, and committees are clearly articulated and evaluated regularly. _____
    • The Board’s Governance Committee discusses attendance and performance with Board members who are absent or inactive – with the goal of enhancing performance, enhancing attrition, or thanking and releasing. _____
    • Board members are aware of activities and trends relevant to the organization (and beyond the organization’s particular focus) and use this information to inform Board deliberations. _____
    • New leadership regularly emerges from the Board and its committees. _____
    • The Board recognizes when change is necessary and stimulates it. _____
    • The Board is sufficiently strong that meeting absence and/or resignation of any single Board member or officer has no impact on effectiveness. _____
    • Leadership succession is assured for officers and committee chairs.
  • Philanthropy and fund development
    • The organization operates its philanthropy fund development program:
      • in accordance with the body of knowledge and best practice _____
      • with a strong culture of philanthropy at the Board and staff levels _____
      • in a donor-centered manner, increasing loyalty _____
    • The Board understands the organization’s fund development strategy. _____
    • A clear policy defines the individual Board member’s responsibility in philanthropy and fund development, and non-adherence to this policy is addressed. _____
    • Each Board member understands his/her role in:
      • identifying and cultivating donors and prospective donors _____
      • giving an annual financial gift to the best of personal ability _____
      • helping to raise funds through diverse means _____
    • A Board committee, partnering with staff, provides strategic leadership in fund development. _____
    • Board ensures the organization fulfills its accountability and reporting requirements to regulators and donors. _____
    • Board evaluates fund development through strategic dialogue about qualitative and quantitative metrics. _____

Write any comments below. Please return by the due date on the front page. Thanks.

Providing your name is optional. _________________________________________________



Developed by Simone P. Joyaux, ACFRE