WLP contents
Site map
Web links



© The White Lion Press Limited
This document can be freely downloaded, adapted and copied for use by individual organisations in their board review procedures. It may not be published or distributed electronically, or used for any purpose without the publisher’s prior consent

Kermarquer, 56310 Melrand, France.
+33 (0)2 97 39 52 63. Fax:
+33 (0)97 39 57 59.
Email: marie@whitelionpress.com




A process for a formal governance review and evaluation

produced in conjunction with
Tiny Essentials of an Effective Volunteer Board
by Ken Burnett (The White Lion Press, 2006)


There are no hard and fast rules for board assessment except that it should be fair, thorough and open. The mechanics of how it might be done are very much up to each individual board taking into account its size, make-up, history and objectives.
A board review will normally focus on,

  • Information provided to the board in advance.
  • The structure, format, content and conduct of board meetings.
  • Communication between board meetings.
  • The management and governance interface.
  • Accountability, transparency and governance.
  • Board roles and responsibilities.
  • Board recruitment and selection.
  • The chief executive.
  • The chair.

Part 1
The most simple method of assessment might involve completion of a questionnaire by board members themselves, by all members of the senior management team and by a number of carefully selected individuals, internal and external to the organisation, who will have had contact with and an understanding of the board and how it operates. The questionnaire can be as concise or as detailed as the board agrees sufficient to do the job.

Part 2
Selected individual trustees and members of the management team are interviewed in depth by an external assessor. All are asked to respond to the same pre-agreed questions. It would almost always be advisable for the chair of trustees, the honorary treasurer and the CEO to be involved in this exercise.

Part 3
The questionnaires having been collated and evaluated by an external assessor, an overnight board seminar is held solely to discuss the results from the evaluation and to agree what changes need to be made. The results of this exercise, with dates by when actions are to be completed, should be published widely.

Board self-assessment questionnaire (1)

The questionnaire below is designed to help the board to assess how well it is functioning and to identify areas where the board as a whole might improve. It may also be helpful for new members of boards, as an indication of the involvement required of active board members.

Read each responsibility carefully and give each a score. The scoring range is 1 to 5; 1 is very dissatisfied, 2 is somewhat dissatisfied, 3 is neither satisfied nor dissatisfied, 4 is somewhat satisfied and 5 is very satisfied. If you are unsure, mark the statement NS.

The assessment facilitator will endeavour to obtain a completed questionnaire from every board member, analyse the results and present a consolidated report in which individual responses are guaranteed anonymity.

How satisfied are you that,

1. All board members are familiar with the current mission statement?
2. The board is knowledgeable about the organisation’s current activities and services.
3. The board fully understands the external environment in which it is operating.
4. The organisation has developed a strategic plan and is planning adequately for the future?
5. The board focuses its attention on long-term significant policy issues rather than short-term administrative matters?
6. The board has approved an effective marketing and public relations strategy for the organisation?
7. The board understands and is appropriately engaged with the
fundraising strategy for the organisation?
8. The organisation has developed a sound financial strategy and good financial controls?
9. The board discusses thoroughly the annual budget of the
organisation and its implications before approving it?
10. The board currently contains a sufficient range of expertise to make it an effective governing body?
11. The respective roles of the board and staff are clearly defined and understood?
12. A written job description clearly spells out the responsibilities of the chief executive?
13. The board supports the chief executive in her/his role?
14. The board appraises the chief executive and remunerates her/him appropriately?
15. The board holds effective meetings?
16. The boards size and structure are adequate?
17. The board has adopted policies that enhance its effectiveness (for example, conflict of interest policies, risk-management policies, etc)?
18. The board adds value to the organisation?

1 Adapted from ActionAid International and NCVO.