The Board Chair Report Card

While a good board chair will ensure that there is an annual evaluation of the chief executive, it is exceedingly rare to hear of a nonprofit that has in place an evaluation of the board chair—yet imagine how helpful that feedback might be!

One of the great services of BoardSource, a tremendous resource for governance advice, is the work they do to conduct periodic surveys of nonprofit leaders—board members and chief executives. In their most recent effort, BoardSource Nonprofit Governance Index 2010, 978 chief executives graded their board chairs (using a numeric 0-100 scale) on the following five measures:

• Cultivates a productive, constructive partnership with chief executive (grade: 81%)

• Fosters an environment that builds trust among board members (grade: 80%)

• Able to resolve conflict, build consensus, and reach compromise (grade: 75%)

• Encourages board members to frame and discuss strategic questions (grade: 68%)

• Establishes clear expectations of board service (grade: 62%)

While it would be easy to add many more measures to this list, it is clear that focusing on these 5 will greatly increase your odds of meeting and exceeding the expectations of the chief executive.

Whether you are a new board chair or a veteran who has a year or more remaining in your term, consider having a discussion with the chief executive about the steps you can take to earn the highest scores on the 5 measures. Strategizing together could prove to be very helpful. And also consider whether you might want to give your board members and your chief executive an opportunity to evaluate you on these measures. What you learn might be helpful to you and could help to raise the bar for future board chairs.

For more board governance advice, explore the Starboard Leadership Consulting web site:, or contact Jeff Wahlstrom at (207) 992-4407.