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Building Your Board Baseline - A Gap Analysis

One of the most important things a board can do on an annual basis is a self-assessment, or gap analysis. Midyear, just as the nominating committee is forming to seek out new board members is an ideal time to identify needs and opportunities for the recruiting process. It is also a great time for an overall review as most organizations are doing checking progress toward fundraising and program goals that were set in the strategic plan. Additionally, these self-assessments can provide general insight and a scorecard as to how they are doing overall.

Oftentimes, these results serve as a strong launching pad for essential conversations with your board about their self-identified strengths and weaknesses. This process also provides an opening for authentic and productive conversations regarding board results and support for fundraising, committee involvement, recruitment needs, board diversity and so on.

The self-assessment should not feel like something that is punitive or being placed on the board or staff due to any level of dissatisfaction. This can most easily be avoided by making it collaborative from the beginning. As the assessment questionnaire is being drafted, everyone should be invited to provide questions and feedback. Asking the team as a whole will help identify topics that are important to individuals and provide insight to any unintended omissions in the assessment. This will help you build “buy in” and achieve maximum authentic results.

"The key to any board self-assessment is inviting the board to be part of the process from the beginning." -Tammey Grable-Newton, MBA, Founder of TANIANT (click to tweet)

Equally important is letting everyone know the “why” and “how.” This will ensure clear expectations and removes any assumptions. For example, is the organization completing the assessment for recruiting purposes? As part of moving the strategic plan forward? In preparation of the annual board retreat? Or most commonly, all the above?

Key Assessment Tools

One of the simpler tools to use is a skills matrix. These are easy to complete and will help establish gaps that will help focus your board recruitment efforts. For example: Does your organization have board members leaning heavily from one industry? Is there an opportunity to add diversity in age or ethnicity? Do you have board members that represent the community or communities your organization serves?

The next tool is your self-evaluation questionnaire. In general, the questionnaire should have questions pertaining to five major areas:

  • Board performance,

  • Board conduct,

  • Individual board member performance,

  • Feedback for the executive director/CEO and

  • Feedback for the board chair

Take care to craft questions that provide insight but don’t steer answers toward a predetermined outcome.

How Should I Gather the Information?

Some utilize online survey tools, others provide a printed form and others, provide both so that the board member can utilize the tool they prefer. There is no wrong answer. The best way to gather the information is simply in the method, or methods, that will provide the most feedback.

What if We Don’t have 100% Participation?

That’s ok. The goal is to have a healthy majority of the board participate. If there are a few folks that are more resigned, and don’t participate, don’t let that discourage you. They likely will have feedback and engage at the board retreat.

Do We Need a Facilitator?

Different organizations have different needs. If there are communication challenges between staff and the board, it can be helpful to bring a consultant into the process early to help lay the groundwork and ensure neutrality. Most often, consultants can be helpful with board retreat facilitation. In general, a consultant can ask deeper questions without the risk of board members or staff feeling uncomfortable or defensive. Many find it helpful to have outside perspective in reviewing the results and facilitating the board retreat, or presenting results in a board meeting.

Final Thoughts

Cultivating a vibrant, diverse board that is engaged and enthused is everyone’s responsibility. Volunteer board members deserve to have a fulfilling and rewarding volunteer board experience, just as nonprofit leaders deserve to have the support of a board that brings their best to the organizations mission, vision and goals.

If you would like help planning your board assessment, preparing for your retreat, compiling your assessment results or taking your board assessment to your strategic plan – I am here to help. Schedule a coffee chat and let’s see how I can serve you.

With gratitude and appreciation,

Hey! Be sure to join the tribe and take advantage of the FREE live #TuesdayTraining, available every Tuesday at 1:00 PM PST in the Ignite Your Nonprofit Facebook Group.


About Taniant: Taniant is a consulting company with a passion for pairing the heart of non-profit and public sector with established business methodology for greater organizational success. Taniant can help your organization with reach new levels of success in grant writing, fund development, volunteer mobilization, community partnerships, strategic planning, operational management, process development, project management and budgeting.

About Tammey: Tammey Grable-Newton is an executive level consultant, powerful speaker and inspired author who guides others to embrace their experiences and create purpose from pain.  As a proven change agent, she has helped many organizations transition to new levels and make the necessary culture shifts that have resulted in improved workflow, a more positive and successful work environment and expanded reach. After completing her MBA at the University of Washington, Tammey was diagnosed with stage 3 metastatic breast cancer. Tammey transitioned from her elite, corporate positions to a career of passion, purpose and reach.  As a remarkable professional and motivational speaker, Tammey shares her stories, lessons and perspectives with humor, candor and empathy.  Whether speaking with the board, staff, funding entities, media or the public in general, she leaves audiences inspired and with tools to achieve. 

Your passion is her passion and Tammey can’t wait to help you IGNITE your GROWTH.

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