As I work with boards, I have been dismayed at the number of them that do not evaluate their executive director (the chief executive officer of the organization). Equally disappointing are the executive directors of those organizations who do not remind the board of this duty.
Evaluation is necessary for many reasons:
When to do it
An evaluation of the ED should take place yearly. A new executive director should be evaluated after three months, then again at six months and at the end of the first year.
Any ED who is not meeting expectations should be evaluated in three months from the time he/she has been evaluated and alerted to the board's concerns.
How to do it
First, evaluation must be based upon the ED's job description and the goals set for the organization. It is not fair to evaluate someone by standards of which he/she was not aware. So make sure there is a job description, a strategic plan and the goals the board and ED agreed upon at the last evaluation, if one took place, or when he/she was hired.
An ED said to me recently, "I don't have a job description". My suggestion to her was to tell the board chair that she needs one and offer the chair a draft that states what she perceives her duties to be. That can help start the process. (See the June 2001 Board and Committees on this site for a generic ED job description.)
My favorite way of conducting an ED evaluation is to prepare a questionnaire for the board based on the elements of the job description and the goals set for the ED. This questionnaire is distributed to the board, and each board member is given the opportunity to rank the ED's performance on each element on a scale of 1-4. There is also room for comments. The ED is also given a copy of the questionnaire and asked to do a self-evaluation.
The questionnaires are then returned to the board chair who summarizes them. The chair then meets with the ED and discusses the evaluation summary, and together they set the ED's goals for the coming review period.
The board chair must give the ED an opportunity to say how effective he/she feels the board has been in supporting the goals of the organization and to suggest ways that the partnership might be improved.
The board chair reports to the board on the outcome of the evaluation and mentions any changes in goals or focus that were agreed upon.
The board should also evaluate itself annually based on its job description and goals. See the March issue of Board and Committees on this site for a way to approach such an evaluation. A board should add to this the specific board responsibilities it has undertaken for the year.
Jeanne H. Bradner is an author, consultant, trainer and speaker on volunteerism, board development and leadership. She is the author of three publications, Passionate Volunteerism, The Board Member's Guide, A Beneficial Bestiary and Leading Volunteers for Results: Building Communities Today. She served as director of the Illinois Governor's Office of Voluntary Action, Midwest Regional Director of ACTION, and Executive Director of the Illinois Commission on Community Service. She is the volunteer program specialist for Illinois' Harper College Volunteer Management curriculum. Send your comments and questions to Jeannebrad@aol.com