How Do You Rate as a Nonprofit Board Leader?

| by Beth Briggs

Leading a nonprofit organization requires clarity of vision, purpose, tenacity, and courage, motivated by a deep and abiding passion for the mission of an organization. The nonprofit sector is changing the landscape in this country and that requires committed leadership to solve the challenges facing the nation in the areas of education, healthcare, food security, affordable housing, childcare, substance abuse, behavioral and mental health, culture, and the arts.   

Nonprofit success is dependent upon the willingness of leaders to accept the responsibility of their roles.  Yet too many organizations still tolerate board members who give a minimum of their skills and talents.  Boards resign themselves to the eighty-twenty rule in which twenty percent of the people do eighty percent of the work. 

The stakes are high, and failure is not an option. It is time to say enough is enough. Nonprofits require 100% of the board giving 100% of their talent in order to ensure the long-term success of the organization. 

Not all nonprofit leaders fully understand their roles and responsibilities. It is incumbent upon the nominating committee to ensure potential board members understand the expectations of the position before they join a board of directors. During the initial meeting, nominees should receive a package of information about the organization including a list of the board roles and responsibilities. Each board member is asked to sign a contract when they join the board agreeing to fulfill those expectations. Annually the chair and nominating committee review those contracts to evaluate individual board members and identify gaps.

At board orientation, members receive training on what those roles and responsibilities actually mean and how they can be of service. Ask the new board members to identify the top three to four skill sets they bring to the board and how they can fully utilize those talents in service to the board.

At each annual or strategic planning session ask board members to evaluate the effectiveness of their engagement. The following is a sample self-evaluation form you can adapt based upon organizational needs.

As a board member, how would you grade yourself?




Below Average


Passion for the mission






Vision for the organization






Annual attendance at board meetings






Financial support at a personal meaningful Level






Engagement in strategic planning






Active involvement in fundraising






Advocate on behalf of the agency






Ability to clearly articulate the mission






Leadership or service on  a committee






Support for the Executive Director






Volunteers or participants in special events






Average Grade






If you are getting all As, congratulations, you are a strong leader and clearly serving the organization to the best of your ability. If you are getting all Bs, you are a good leader. Are their areas where you can improve your service? If you are getting all Cs, how can you bring greater value to the agency? If you are getting Ds and Fs, it may be time to re-evaluate why you are serving and if it is time to step down. You are doing the agency no good if you don’t contribute time and talent to lead the organization.  Perhaps the better way to serve is to donate money to the organization, identify another individual who can provide greater leadership, or commit to becoming a participating member. They will appreciate your gifts tremendously by dedicating your time and talent.


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