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CEO Performance Appraisal
7/21/2017 12:00 AM

CEO Ward C. VanWichen (Malta, Montana) explains how he takes charge to receive an objective performance evaluation in this B&A feature.

If you expect a good performance appraisal from your board to just show up out of the blue, you will most likely end up disappointed.

That’s because volunteer board members face many challenges when it comes to evaluating your performance fairly: They probably aren’t experienced in evaluating a professional, they may not know what to evaluate and they may not even be aware of the need for it or the process that should be used.

CEO Ward C. VanWichen (Malta, Montana; 406.654.1100) receives the evaluation he deserves from his board because he takes responsibility for it and works at making the process effective.

“For the board and myself here at our facility, the process, form and format to conduct my CEO evaluation are a struggle to identify to make it meaningful and useful for both of us,” VanWichen said. He said it is also a challenge to see that he is evaluated consistently and in a timely fashion.

“Working with volunteer board members, it seems that the responsibility to ensure this gets done is mine, when in reality and practice that should be the function and responsibility of the board,” VanWichen said.

Here are the evaluation strategies he uses:

  1. Inform and educate the board year-round. No CEO can afford to provide his board with development on a topic and hope it sticks. VanWichen keeps his board informed and educated on a variety of topics related to his work. “One topic I stress is the board and CEO relationship, and within that topic the importance and need for the CEO to receive a meaningful evaluation,” he said.
  2. VanWichen said Board & Administrator is part of his educational efforts with the board, along with other materials from periodicals within his industry.

    This is one item for him to check off his to-do list during the year, but it hardly guarantees a meaningful evaluation, VanWichen said.

  3. Stress timeliness. “In the past several years, the timeliness of my evaluation has improved,” VanWichen said, but it was a challenge in the early years of his 10-year tenure at the organization.
  4. “[Having the board] perform an annual evaluation can be a real struggle, as who can really remember what has been done over the past year?” he said.

    VanWichen said his evaluation is placed on the board’s governance calendar as a reminder to ensure it receives the board’s attention.

    Look to the board’s chair to lead when it comes to your evaluation coming in on time. “I feel the CEO and chair relationship and understanding of the need and importance of an evaluation makes the true difference in completing the evaluation and getting it done on time,” VanWichen said.

  5. Keep searching for the right form for you and the board. “We have not identified one that we truly like or utilize, and are always on the lookout for a form that fits our needs,” VanWichen said.
  6. He added, “The question to me always comes down to this: objective versus subjective views and input.”

    It’s also important to find a form that doesn’t let the board wander deep into the woods of administration and management issues, but to keep the CEO appraisal focused on governance, strategic planning, vision and a more global perspective on the organization, VanWichen said.

  7. Utilize a conversation-based format. “We have chosen to have a board and CEO conversation about strengths, weaknesses and areas needing to be improved on,” VanWichen said. “I take notes from those conversations so I can work on things that are identified.”
  8. VanWichen and his board have held this conversation in a full-board nonstructured conversation format during an executive session. This works for his board, but VanWichen suggests mixing the format up by using a committee approach to evaluation or a chair/vice chair format for the appraisal to determine which approach works best for the CEO.

  9. Avoid “getting personal.” “Even though it is very hard, when we do receive our CEO evaluation from the board we shouldn’t take it personally, as they are doing their job of noting their observations to ensure that from their governance position you and the organization are on the right path,” VanWichen said.
  10. He added, “I liken it to the old coaching saying—‘When I am still coaching, guiding and talking to you, I still see potential and hope, but if I have to quit, then you need to start worrying.’”

  11. Be clear at all times of the “why” of CEO evaluation. This is vital for both the board and the CEO, VanWichen said. “Yes, it gives input and guidance to the CEO personally and professionally, but it also helps guide the organization and ensure that it is on the right track,” he said.
  12. Clarity on your performance appraisal’s purpose can also build a deeper, more personal relationship with your board, VanWichen said. “It leads to more trust, understanding, collaboration and partnering to ensure the success of your facility—which is exactly what both the board and CEO are working towards,” he said. “You have to make sure you are all pulling in the same direction.”

  13. Don’t get hung up on performance metrics. VanWichen’s organization (a hospital) uses different reports, metrics and areas that are tracked, but he said this data is not used in conjunction with the evaluation to judge his success or competencies, he said.
  14. “I do have an employment contract, but there are no evaluation metrics tied to compensation either,” he said.

    “To be honest, I believe I prefer this model because obtaining different compensation for things that may have or may not have happened and may be out of my control for the year might not be fair and I am not so sure if it might cloud my decision-making knowing it could impact a certain metric tied to personal compensation/bonus,” VanWichen said.

  15. Keep in mind that no one size will fit all. “Each organization’s board and CEO need to do what works for them and continually work to improve the practice and process, just like we do in all other areas of health care,” VanWichen said.
  16. “The process will never be perfect, but you can give it the perfect effort and that effort and work will be rewarded by ensuring all levels of the organization are progressing in the right direction to make a difference,” he said.

Board Chair
7/12/2017 12:00 AM

Consultant Terrie Temkin recommends a “career ladder” to develop competencies required for the chair position in this Board & Administrator feature.

Board chairs are generally egregiously unprepared for the job.

That was a key finding of “Voices of Board Chairs, A National Study on the Perspectives of Board Chairs: How they prepare for and perceive their role in relation to the board,” from the Alliance for Nonprofit Management’s Governance Affinity Group. 

Here is one important finding: 55% of chairs have fewer than three years on the board, with 16% having served less than one year.

Terrie Temkin, CoreStrategies for Nonprofits Inc. (954-985-9489;, said preparations for developing the board’s top leader need to really begin at the board recruitment stage.

Does this happen at your organization? When a board member is “promoted” to chair without a proper onboarding and education process, the organization often finds itself six months later with a chair who can’t do the job, Temkin said. Here’s how to go about building a career ladder to develop competent leadership in the chair position:

  1. Start work on chair development early. Chair prep begins at onboarding. When the board recruits new members, it needs to view every person they recruit as having the potential to become a board chairperson. “That’s very important,” Temkin said.
  2. To develop these types of high-quality individuals into board leaders, the board needs strategic programs for board orientation and ongoing board education. “Those are the programs that provide the background about the organization, the knowledge of the mission, the understanding of the community and the organization’s impact to board members,” Temkin said.

    The orientation should also introduce board members to the governance function, the board’s job and how to do it well, she said.

    “When the ongoing education provided covers these skills or dimensions of board service, people are far more knowledgeable and can use that knowledge in a way that strengthens them when they are in positions of leadership,” Temkin said.

    After the onboarding occurs and with a strong education component in place, the organization then should identify early on the board members it wants to groom for board leadership positions.

  3. Provide those identified with opportunities to develop. Once the organization has selected an individual to groom for leadership positions on the board, he or she needs plenty of chances to grow and develop. This can occur through the opportunity to attend conferences, or through classes at a local community college or a United Way, for example, Temkin said.
  4. “It would be great if this could be accomplished at the organization’s expense, because that would allow all potential leaders to have the experience regardless of their financial situation,” she said.

    Realistically, some organizations are opposed to spending on board development philosophically and others won’t have the budget “but it sends a very important message that preparation and education are essential to you as a leader and to the future of the organization,” Temkin said.

    For organizations with limited funds for board education, getting creative provides opportunities for board member development. “This can occur at each meeting, in the form of a quick quiz on a topic that gives people a chance to test themselves on what they know,” Temkin said. Other ideas:

    • Program tours. Temkin knows of one cancer organization that takes board members to a research facility for tours of the labs where scientists are working on tissue.
    • Visits to state legislators to work on advocacy. The CEO can make these initial introductions, Temkin said.
    • Creating a board education calendar.
    • Bringing in outside expertise.
    • Opportunities for networking. Networking for board members can occur even within the organization—for instance, at a fundraising event, Philanthropy Day luncheons, a breakfast with leaders or a chamber function. The people your board member comes into contact with will begin to impart advice about how they handled issues when in a similar position, Temkin said. “That is invaluable,” she said.
    • “These types of opportunities are motivational and help an individual understand the issues at hand while getting excited about a leadership role,” she said.

  5. Build a board leader “career ladder.” Building a career ladder for a talented board member requires the organization to provide the necessary opportunities for this individual to take on other leadership positions. This might be chairing a bylaws or planning committee, Temkin said.
  6. “Those are two committees that would provide incredible background for a potential leader,” Temkin said.

    Another option for career ladder building is to ensure those leaders being groomed have a chance to serve on all committees. “You want them to understand inside and out what it takes to run the organization and all of the issues involved,” Temkin said.

    More options for building a career ladder for a board chair that are in the making:

    • Have the individual take on key roles when the board is reorganizing or the organization is merging with another.
    • Prepare a list of top educational resources for an incoming chair for the individual to review.

    If during the course of career ladder building you sense a lack of enthusiasm or realize you have made the wrong choice, “stop feeding that horse and move onto someone else,” Temkin said. “You want someone who is excited about these opportunities. Those are your best leaders.”

    Also, you may want to invest in coaching for your top leadership prospects, Temkin said, someone who has experience working with chairs, or a public speaking or meetings expert, if those topics present challenges to these individuals. This “coach” might be a past chair from your or another local organization, Temkin said.

  7. Spend more time with your future leaders as CEO. The organization should offer opportunities for lunch or breakfast with the CEO to those board members it is grooming for board leadership, Temkin said.
  8. “The past board chair or current chair can be involved here too,” Temkin said. “It’s an opportunity for everyone to discuss the wide range of topics affecting the organization.”

    It’s also a great opportunity for a potential chair to ask questions of current leaders such as what they wish they had known before taking the position or which skills they wish had been developed more fully before taking on the job, Temkin said.

Resource Development
5/5/2017 12:00 AM

Find new board members and funding with this community outreach event, as described by CEO David Cook in Board & Administrator.

CEO David Cook (Hendersonville, N.C.; said his organization hosts a quarterly event to increase awareness in the community. It’s called IAM—A Closer Look and is targeted toward bringing new talent, skills and money into the organization.

The board and its chair have a role in the event, too.

“IAM—A Closer Look is a one-hour tour and orientation to our nonprofit that we do every three months,” Cook said. “It is aimed at new pastors, prospective volunteers, donors and interested business persons.”

When board members and Cook attend chamber of commerce events, Rotary Club meetings and other community functions, they issue an invitation to visit the organization for IAM—A Closer Look.

The agenda for the one-hour event covers these activities:

  • A reception hosted by the board’s chair.
  • Welcome delivered by Cook.
  • Introductions of those who will be speaking.
  • Remarks from Cook that explain who IAM is and what the organization does.
  • A facility tour, hosted by the organization’s volunteer manager.
  • Perspectives on IAM’s work, from various voices involved with the organization, including a pastor, an IAM volunteer and a video testimonial from a client.

Cook wraps up the event with a description of organizational needs.

A question-and-answer session follows, and then attendees are asked to complete a form to evaluate the event.

Everyone who attends receives a folder with the annual report, the bimonthly Faith Liaison Newsletter, a basic organizational brochure, the volunteer opportunities brochure and a one-page information paper with the mission and vision statements and 2015 statistics, Cook said.

“Eight to ten guests typically attend the event,” Cook said.

“In general, we have enjoyed continued support from churches with new pastors who have attended, gained some new volunteers and added several new sponsors for our annual fundraiser and several individuals who later became board members,” he said. One recent new board member addition is the new pastor of one of IAM’s largest founding organizations, he said.

Members of the press have also received invitations to attend. “I think that has helped us with the excellent local coverage of our ministry and our various events through the year,” Cook said.

New donors have also stepped up as a result of attendance at the event. “Most recently, a donor put up a $5,000 matching gift challenge for our capital campaign, and another donor who is also now a volunteer contributed $5,000 to our crisis services,” Cook said.

The event evaluations are used to fine-tune the orientation and tour. “They have garnered very positive feedback,” he said.

3/10/2017 12:00 AM

This resource from Board & Administrator helps board members assess their engagement level with the organization.

2/24/2017 12:00 AM

In Brian Foss and the Horatio Alger Association’s book, Governing Effective Nonprofits in the 21st Century, board members can find a wealth of practical information about serving on a board.

Below, you’ll find a terrific job description for a nonprofit board member.

A Sample Board Member’s Job Description for Any Nonprofit

  • Understand and support the mission, programs and services of the organization.
  • Accept the responsibilities of being a fiduciary of a corporation that exists for the public good using tax-exempt, tax-deductible funds.
  • Make a multiyear commitment to participate actively in governance meetings and programs.
  • Be among the first, most generous and consistent annual donors.
  • Invite new people to become involved in the organization’s work and to contribute financially.
  • Assist other governance leaders in building relationships that will help the organization fulfill its mission.
  • Be a steward of the public trust and a trustee of the organization’s mission and resources.
  • Keep the board’s work focused on governance issues, policy creation and setting strategic directions for the organization’s future in a transparent and ethical manner.
  • Keep the board focused on effectiveness in fulfilling the mission and programs, and creating an organization that is best-in-class.
  • As a fiduciary, ensure that the organization is diversely funded, approve the annual budget and monitor fiscal affairs, conduct an audit annually, have fiscal controls in place, review IRS Form 990, and plan for the financial future of the corporation.
  • Ensure the board has policies in place regarding board and staff conflicts of interest, self-dealing and transparency.
  • Understand how the organization raises its funds and approve all of the fundraising practices and external contracts for fundraising.
  • Leave management matters to the organization’s CEO and help the board and staff continuously differentiate the roles of governance and management.
  • Be an advocate and ally for the CEO, assuming such support is merited. Participate in the hiring, nurturing and evaluation of the CEO.
  • Keep the board focused on the organization’s mission.


Source: Brian Foss, Governing Effective Nonprofits in the 21st Century. Reprinted with permission.

1/27/2017 12:00 AM

Use the following exercise from The Board Doctor to assess your board’s understanding of its role.

Use the following exercise to determine how clearly your board understands its role. Identify those areas where the board lacks either knowledge or information, and make plans to find them the training they need. Remember: An untrained board is a disaster (for the CEO) waiting to happen.


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