The process and the survey results give
SOA a routine way to collect members’
opinions on the strengths and weaknesses in the board’s activities and
assess board effectiveness at all levels.
members, newly-elected members, and
members who’ve just completed their
terms. Members submit completed surveys anonymously through a web-based
survey tool and the Leadership Development Committee analyzes compiled
SOA keeps its survey short to
encourage participation. A copy of the
2010 survey may be obtained at www.
soa.org/board-assessments. Members rate board performance on key
responsibilities such as accomplishing
the mission, ensuring effective planning and accountability, monitoring
and strengthening programs, providing financial oversight and ensuring
integrity. They rate performance on
key “enablers” of success such as orientation and integration of new board
members, appropriateness of committees and clarity of their charters, focus
on strategic rather than administrative
issues, effective decision making, board
and staff collaboration, and overall
board experience. Board members also
answer several open-ended questions,
identifying principal accomplishments
of the past year and how the board can
be more effective.
New board members complete a
different survey. They evaluate the
board’s on-boarding process, rate their
understanding of board responsibilities, identify concerns about any of the
accomplishments of the prior year,
identify significant challenges and
opportunities as a new board member,
and share ideas to strengthen board
participation. A copy of the new board
survey also may be accessed at www.
Committee added a new and valuable
step. The committee developed a set
of questions for all outgoing board
members. Rather than conduct this
survey electronically, the committee believed SOA would gain greater
insight if these questions were asked
as an “exit interview.” The committee retained an outside consultant to
conduct the interviews to gather the
information and provide board members
with the assurance of confidentiality.
The questions addressed issues such
as lessons learned as a board member, most important issues addressed,
issues that could have been handled
better, and advice for strengthening
board effectiveness. The consultant
provided a completed report — without
attribution to any individual member —
containing interview results. A copy of
SOA’s Departing Board Member Survey,
used for the first time in 2010, may
be found at www.soa.org/board-assess-ments.
Finally, the Leadership Development Committee chair presents the
survey results at the next regular board
meeting, identifying areas of accomplishment and concerns, as well as discussing improvements needed.
Does It Make a
Anyone who serves on, works for or con-
sults with a nonprofit board knows that
helping a board and individual board
members to be effective is an ongoing
challenge. Board service is complex —
balancing fiduciary oversight with the
need to focus on strategic issues — and
involves many points of view, personal
styles and values. Having an effective
board evaluation process will not make
these issues disappear. It won’t pre-
vent all board problems or significant
disagreements. And it certainly won’t
resolve major strategic issues facing an
How Does It Help?
Nevertheless, SOA believes board self-
evaluation is vital to the effectiveness
of its board and boards in general. The
process and the survey results give SOA
a routine way to collect members’ opin-
ions on the strengths and weaknesses
in the board’s activities and assess
board effectiveness at all levels. The
• Identify problems and develop effec-
• Identify accomplishments board
members feel are truly important.
• Improve orientation of new members, a critical skill due to turnover
and term limits.
• Provides SOA an expected time each
year when the board, as a whole,
participates in open communication
about its performance, including
accomplishments and weaknesses.
In addition to these benefits, the survey
Please consult the Association Forum’s “Facilitation of
Effective Board Decision Making” Professional Practice
Statement for more helpful tips on the role of the association executive in identifying, synthesizing, analyzing and
communicating issues and relevant data to the board.
Visit associationforum.org>Resources>Samples and Best
Practice Guidelines>Professional Practice Statements.
Exit Interview Added