One of the tools available to help boards improve their performance is the Board Performance Self-Assessment Questionnaire developed by Profs. Vic Murray of the School of Public Administration at the University of Victoria and Yvonne Harrison of the Rockefeller College of Pubic Affairs and Policy at the State University of New York, Albany.
What follows below is just sample of the questions from this larger questionnaire. They illustrate the kinds of issues that challenge the effectiveness of boards of directors of nonprofit organizations. Among the areas dealt with are the clarity of the board's role, how well it carries out its basic responsibilities, the suitability of its make up and structure, its meeting effectiveness, and the supportiveness of its informal culture.
Try to think of this questionnaire in the same way you think of the one you get at a doctor’s office when you go for a checkup. You’ll recall that it contains a long list of possible health issues and asks you to check those that concern you so you and the doctor can discuss them. In the same way, this questionnaire provides the beginning of a health checkup for your board. The items included in it are issues raised by actual board members in many kinds of nonprofit organizations over the years. They are framed as statements of problems and you are asked to indicate to what extent problems like these exist in your organization. The fewer items you agree with, the more “healthy” you consider your board to be. When you do agree with one of the statements, you are not being critical of your board (just as checking “Do you get headaches?” on the doctor’s questionnaire does not mean you are somehow at fault). It merely indicates that this is a matter you think should be discussed.
All responses to this questionnaire are treated as completely confidential. No one, other than the study co-investigators Dr. Murray (
) or Dr. Yvonne Harrison (
) will see any individual data. Participating boards will be shown only statistical summaries of all responses. Access to these results and a written report with a synthesis of the findings will be provided through a special link dedicated for each participating organization.