Board Effectiveness Diagnostics
Notwithstanding the shortcomings of simple surveys (e.g. one size does not fit all, tick-the-box mentality, etc.), boards can use checklists as mechanisms to ‘take the pulse’ or to perform basic compliance checks.
The most fundamental diagnostics your board could use relate to legal and governance compliance – both as regards board effectiveness, and more broadly, organisational compliance.
As for other short surveys, compliance or performance checklists may be helpful, but only as a starting point for the conversation required for the board to target the areas most likely to benefit from specific improvements.
Board Effectiveness Health Check
The first diagnostic chart is derived from the Board Effectiveness Domains identified by the Institute of Community Directors in their sample Governance Policy, which are confined to the director responsibilities they consider non-delegable.
International Governance Standards
Apologies to my international readers that most of the tools in this post are very Australia-focused, however, they illustrate approaches that could be adapted to any jurisdiction globally. International Standard ISO 3700 – Governance of Organisations does have global relevance though, hence this simple diagnostic chart.
Legal Governance Check
Depending on the legal structure of the entity, an association may refer to Corporations Law or laws regulating incorporated associations. The AICD Not-for-profit Governance Principles are widely applicable to most nonprofit and for-purpose organisations in Australia.
Community Organisation Capability Health Check
In Victoria, the Department of Families, Fairness, and Housing (DFFH) has developed a Governance Capability Framework for the Community Sector. They also offer a framework toolkit, which may be of interest to other non-profits outside the community sector and outside Victoria.
Charities will refer to similar laws to those referenced by associations, but also to the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission standards. The much longer chart below includes template headings for an action plan to address any area on which a ‘No’ response was provided to a self-evaluation query. That action sheet format could be usefully applied to any other diagnostic tool aimed at enhancing board effectiveness.
Limitations of these tools
Previous posts in this series have referred to the many other dimensions of nonprofit governance and management that deserve evaluation and enhancement. The tools in this post only scratch the surface of the broader work required within your Measurement, Evaluation, and Learning (ME&L) Framework.
All nonprofit and for-purpose organisations have constitutionally defined purposes and objectives, and a checklist of these could also be used to confirm that the board (or organisation) is aligned with those purposes and objectives. Sometimes, of course, such reflection may lead to the recognition that the constitution needs to be updated to permit organisational responsiveness to evolving stakeholder needs.
The Board Competency Dimensions listed on the header chart could also be converted into a diagnostic tool using a similar format to charts 1-4 in this post.
To be continued …
Part 6 of this series will conclude the series by seeking to tidy up some loose ends and offering further reflections on how board effectiveness relates to other aspects of nonprofit governance.