For over 20 years, I have served as either President or Vice-President of The Pacific Northwest Foundation (PNF). Shortly after I founded it in 1988, the Foundation made a multi-year grant to and supplied key board leadership for a new nonprofit organization, Pacific Nonprofit Network (PNN).
Based in Medford, Oregon, it successfully undertook providing grants information, board development, and training to individuals involved in nonprofit pursuits throughout the region of rural Oregon.
I had long been cognizant of the central role a competent board of directors plays in the potential success of an organization. In retrospect, however, it was from this successful experience with PNN that I became aware of the value of board evaluation, as well as the importance of following up with trainings to address the board’s weaknesses once the assessment was concluded.
We used BoardWALK, a tool developed by United Way. To my knowledge, BoardWALK was not only the first board assessment tool in wide use, it was also the first to have a series of trainings based on the results of the evaluations.
In the 1980’s when I was introduced to BoardWALK, the Council on Foundations developed a variety of assessment tools for various types of foundations. The Drucker Foundation (now the Leader to Leader Institute) and National Center for Nonprofit Boards (now BoardSource) developed an evaluation processes in the early 1990’s. (I had the distinction and pleasure of associating with Peter Drucker for several years during the 1970's.) These last two are similar to the BoardWALK process in that they try to assess and then provide training for the organization in question, with the BoardSource process resembling it the most.
I relate this history for two reasons. First, it is important to know some of the context within which I recommend board evaluations. Second, the BoardWALK program inspires the board assessment questionnaire that I have created. The difference, however, between my process and the others is I approach the subject from a planning perspective rather than solely functional areas.
For further information about the specifics of my background, please see my resume.