The board of directors may understand that they have an obligation to evaluate the overall performance, mission and strategy of a nonprofit organization, but it is a good idea to periodically evaluate how well the board of directors is functioning and performing as well. A non-functional or under-performing board can be a genuine detriment to an organization.
While an organization may have policy in place for the evaluation of staff and even volunteers it is not often a consideration to evaluate the performance of board members as individuals AND as a functioning unit. The first step may be to create a system for evaluating the board members that will not be too daunting, labor-intensive or frighten off prospective board volunteers.
Consider combining self-evaluation with peer evaluation as a beginning performance review. Ask board members to comment on their own board service experience, and invite other board members to offer up suggestions, evaluations and goals for the board of directors as a whole. It can be a good idea to get feedback from staff, but it is best filtered through the executive director or executive staff. Staff needs to feel guided and supported by the board of directors and it can be important to periodically ask if that is actually happening.
Remember, the goal is not to chastise board members or make people feel badly about their volunteer service, but to help the board of directors to stay relevant, involved and informed. It is important for board members to make a commitment to the nonprofit organization and to understand how their guidance and leadership directly affects the well-being of the mission and services. Periodic evaluations can keep the board on track, as well as give individuals the encouragement and accountability necessary to make them effective and influential in their board service.