Spending time reflecting on governing boards and their work is an exciting adventure for me! Some of my friends consider this rather odd, given the pain all of us have experienced with some dysfunctional boards are various levels of size, influence and non-profit standing. Yet, I continue to identify myself as a “Board-Hugger.” Click this link to read the reasons for this self-description found in another blog post written several years ago.

Recently I enjoyed working with Dr. Tammy Condon, administrative director of the International Board of Education, Church of the Nazarene. She is preparing to resource a college board outside of the United States as the school faces some serious challenges.

In the discussion, reference was made to a “Board Diagnostic” I developed several years ago for the German District, Church of the Nazarene, church board retreat. As Dr. Tammy and I reflected on the diagnostic instrument used, we concluded that the questions in the diagnostic could easily be adopted for use as an initial instrument in various non-profit boards – local church, higher education institution, or ministry organization. The questions probe various areas of governance local boards can easily take for granted until a crisis occurs.

Board members are to rate each statement in the diagnostic tool as (1) strongly agree; (2) agree; (3) disagree; (4) strongly disagree. Click this link to review the diagnostic instrument developed for the German District. The value of asking these questions is found in the responses to the questions engendered by the discussion and the identification of the priorities to which the board should give immediate attention.

On a scale of (1) to (4), how would you rate each statement regarding the board(s) on which you serve?

  1. The following legal documents are up to date and filed in an appropriate place where board members or government agencies can quickly locate and review them, if necessary: Constitution or Articles of Incorporation, By-Laws,
 NGO or not-for-profit status (in USA: 501(c)(3)), Payroll documentation, Insurance policies (i.e. officers, property, personal injury, etc,)
  2. The organization’s mission, vision, and values are clear, understood, shared and articulated by the multiple stakeholders.
  3. The strategic planning process is understood and embraced by 
the board and stakeholders.
  4. Board members understand their roles, functions, and expectations.
  5. Board meetings are held regularly, 
are well attended, have detailed agendas, and the board minutes are well documented.
  6. The board assesses annually its performance and functions.
  7. Time is designated monthly, quarterly, or yearly for board development sessions.
  8. The organization has a banking account, money deposited and bills paid 
regularly, with clear financial reports presented at each board meeting.
  9. The bookkeeping and reporting system, including the cash flow and basic internal controls, are actively managed and reviewed periodically.
  10. There is a comprehensive annual budget in place, adopted by the board, and referenced frequently and used consistently to guide financial decisions.
  11. The taxes are paid, paper work filed on time with the appropriate government agency, with an annual audit conducted.
  12. There is an organization policy manual in place to guide the board in relation to employees and volunteer staff, and that reflects the organization’s mission, vision and values.
  13. There is a leader effectiveness review (or leadership performance 
 evaluation) for the pastor/leader and staff in place and it is used at least every two years.
  14. There is a professional development process or program in place for the 
pastor/leader and staff, and this process or program is reviewed annually.
  15. There is a needs assessment and program development process in place 
with measurable outcomes, and this plan is reviewed annually.
  16. An annual report to the congregation or membership is provided that communicates the impact of the organization’s program priorities on the community served by the local church, education institution or ministry organization.

In light of your responses to the diagnostic, identify the top three priorities you feel should be embraced by the board:





Following the discussion on the board when the other members shared their priority lists, what are the top three overarching priorities to which the board agreed to address with a laser-beam commitment during the next 12-18 months:






Feel free to adapt the board diagnostic to your specific situation. I welcome your feedback on this instrument and the action plan shaped by the board following the use of this self-evaluation tool. Coaching and additional resources are available.


Edward LeBron Fairbanks



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