Thursday, March 3, 2011

Common Sense Performance Review

Does your nonprofit do an annual performance review of the Executive Director? Or has your Board of Directors consistently managed to dodge this task? If you do have a process in place, are you satisfied with the format and your results?

Many nonprofits, especially those with small budgets and staff, simply fail to do an annual assessment of the organization's leader. Yet an annual review can be one of the very best tools to keep your nonprofit in running order, as well as to promote a continuing positive relationship between board and staff. And it is important to note that every nonprofit Board has a legal obligation to provide prudent management, which includes oversight of the Executive Director's work.

A well-conceived, annual ED performance review will help:
  • Ensure that your nonprofit programs and services align with your mission statement
  • Monitor your progress in achieving organizational goals and objectives
  • Provide support for your ED by acknowledging work that has been well-done as well as brainstorming how to make improvements
  • Provide a written document for the future as a basis for salary increases - or for probationary action and firing.
It doesn't have to be complicated or tortuous. You'll need three basic tools: an up-to-date job description, a list of basic goals and objectives for the year (both in program and finance), and a committee to oversee the process. This committee could be your standing Personnel Committee, your Executive Committee, or an ad hoc committee specifically designated for this purpose.

Here are some guidelines:
  1. Keep it simple: Base your evaluation forms on the existing ED job description. Break it down into clearly defined sections (program, finance, fundraising, management, etc.) and provide a place for comments about both achievements and improvement opportunities. There is no one correct format; find one that works for your organization.
  2. Make it a two-way street: Be sure to create a similar self-evalution form for your ED. This form should include a section for the ED to note achievements and improvement opportunities for the Board of Directors.
  3. Keep it personal: Don't just use numbers or grades - include thoughtful written comments. Make sure the ED gets a chance to read the document beforehand, and that the process includes a personal meeting.
  4. Keep it positive: One of the biggest mistakes nonprofits make is seeing a performance evaluation as a time for criticism. Talking only about mistakes and problems is counter-productive. Be sure to acknowledge good work, and suggest potential improvements in a supportive manner.
  5. Make it annual: Put the annual performance review on the Board calendar, and stick to it. Once your have all your systems and forms in place, it will become much easier.
Above all, approach the ED performance review as a valuable and welcome opportunity to take stock, set new performance objectives, evaluate the board/staff relationship, and improve not only your chief executive's performance but the work of your organization.

1 comment:

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