Board Cafe: Are We Doing a Good Job?

Board Cafe

Are We Doing a Good Job?

by Jan Masaoka

At a regular physical check-up, the doctor may ask the patient, "How are you feeling?" The answer is important. Although some patients may feel well but have a hidden disease, the patient's own sense of well being is an important indicator. In a similar way, when a board asks itself, "How do we feel about our board and our organization?" the answer is an important indicator, if not an error-proof test. We suggest an annual poll of board members to get a sense of how the board is doing. There are many such surveys, but here's a short one you can try. Give board members a scale to choose from for each answer, such as 1 - 5 , with 1 being Very Unsatisfied and 5 being Very Satisfied. You might also ask your executive director (and other staff who frequently work with the board) to fill out a similar survey, and then use the results of both to kick off a discussion where people reflect on the survey results and establish objectives for the year about board activities.


  1. Understands and can convey the organization's mission and purpose?
  2. Is confident that the organization is in compliance with federal, state and local regulations?
  3. Has procedures that report that government contract obligations are fulfilled?
  4. Has a strategic vision for the organization?
  5. Knows enough about the organization's programs and services?
  6. Monitors and evaluates the performance of the executive director on a regular basis?
  7. Provides financial oversight for the organization, including approving a realistic budget?
  8. Monitors financial performance and projections on a regular basis?
  9. Has adopted a fundraising strategy and reflects on its successes?
  10. Has a clear policy on the responsibilities of board members in fundraising?
  11. Acts as ambassadors to the community on behalf of the organization and its clients/patrons?
  12. Understands the role that volunteers play in the organization and the organization's philosophy of volunteer management?
  13. Appreciates the respective roles of the board and staff?
  14. Currently contains an appropriate range of expertise and diversity to make it an effective governing body?
  15. Effectively involves board members in board activities and responsibilities?
  16. Periodically assesses our own performance as a board?

A related article from the Board Café on "360 Degree Evaluation of the Agency" can be found on our  under "Board Meetings, Board Packets, Tools", or go directly to the article

For a more comprehensive board self-assessment, the National Center for Nonprofit Boards publishes the "Self Assessment for Nonprofit Governing Boards Kit," which includes a user's guide and fifteen 20-page questionnaires, $169.00 for non-members and $126.75 for members; available at 1-800-883-6262 or

Original publication date: 5/18/2000

© 2000 CompassPoint Nonprofit Services/National Center for Nonprofit Boards