The Charity Board - Performance Reviews
8 November 2004 at 12:11 pm
Enhanced governance with better people on better functioning boards is the key to increasing the capacity of charities world wide according to Canadian expert Sol Kasimer.
Kasimer writes regularly for Charity Channel about getting people on boards.
But an obvious next question he says is: what will people do once they join the board of a charity? What are essential actions of a board that will drive performance?
The answers to this question are a varied as there are charities and board members but there are a few areas Kasimer is convinced of that are common to all boards and essential to good governance. Here are his tips.
Understand Your Roles
First and foremost boards and directors must understand their roles and the role of staff in the organisation. Even the most dedicated volunteers will contribute a few hours a week and in most cases a few hours a month. Full time staff will always have more time, more involvement and more detailed knowledge of the organisation, its stakeholders and context.
There is nothing to be gained by directors trying to “out manage management.” Staff and directors have separate but complimentary roles and responsibilities. It is important that each party understand and practice the special contribution that they make — what is the unique role of the board, what is the role of staff and how do they work together?
Base Your Expectations on a Plan
Beyond the legal and fiduciary responsibilities of a Board perhaps the most crucial duty of every board is performance evaluation. A board must evaluate its own performance and the performance of the individual directors. Of course to evaluate performance one must have clear understanding of goals and tasks set out. Without a plan and expectations around performance goals it is impossible to evaluate the board and directors.
Essential to any charity — and I expect to any for business as well — is clarity of purpose. What are we trying to do? How will we make a difference? Where do we want to go? With a strong clear mission an organisation can set strategic directions and specific measurable outcomes and performance expectations.
Performance evaluation and goal setting is fundamental in the corporate world. A huge contribution directors can make in a charity is to impose the same method and rigour to their volunteer job as they do in their “day job.”
And with a variety of work experience among directors a board has a variety of goal setting and performance tracking systems to learn from. (Not just diversity of background or demographics but diversity of experience and skills.)
For example when directors can share different performance management systems and pick and choose the best, the whole organisation benefits from the diversity of experience at the board table just as it will when the board hires an ED, does strategic planning, environmental scanning, or resource development.
Evaluate Executive Director Performance Too
With a proper performance evaluation of the board and directors in place an essential duty of the board is performance review of the Executive Director.
(Your organisation might have a different job title — say CEO or president — but for the purposes here I will use the title Executive Director for the key staff person reporting to the board).
Again directors can help devise the tools but any good performance system will sit in context of what the organisation wants to accomplish, what outcomes are desired, what strategies will drive outcomes and what measures will let you know your are on track to support your mission.
Reviewing performance, feeding back to the system and setting goals and expected outcomes for the next period are critical not just for the individual but also for the organisation. Performance reviews also allow for information exchange, coaching and feedback on how the ED and board is / can / should be / … working together to drive organisational performance.
A rigorous, thoughtful review of performance (for directors, board and ED) sets a wonderful example through the whole organisation — one that will be followed through with all staff and key volunteer groups. Performance review is a critical task for a board and one that sets a tone and drives performance.