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Why are we developing evaluation tools for nonprofit boards and management committees?

Evaluation techniques can be qualitative (e.g., interviews, focus groups, observation, document analysis) and quantitative (survey, personal questionnaire etc).

A number of US or Canadian tools currently exist for the purposes of evaluating boards and their relative effectiveness. For example —

  • Herman and Renz (1997)(1) propose board effectiveness as a function of:
    • Stakeholder and CEO judgements of board effectiveness;
    • Board, staff, and funders' perceptions of organisational effectiveness;
    • Objective indicators such as stated organisational effectiveness criteria;
    • Other organisational variables such as total revenue, and retrenchment strategies.
  • Another example is the Board Self-Assessment Questionnaire (Jackson and Holland, 1998)(1). This assesses board performance in six areas that have been shown to be characteristic of effective boards (i.e., context; education; interpersonal, analytical, political, and strategic skills)
  • Lastly, the Governance Self-Assessment Checklist (Gill, Flynn and Reissing, 2005)(1) assesses board effectiveness on twelve dimensions, e.g. relating to board culture, management, decision-making, monitoring, and development.

The Developing Your Board project is developing both qualitative and quantitative tools, based around the major office bearers of Australian nonprofit boards. These evaluation tools will be particularly suited for the Australian context.

Getting started on your DYB evaluation

The DYB surveys assess the position of chair or president and the board as a governance team. The pilot testing stage has been done and preliminary results show good reliability.

The revised DYB board evaluation surveys are now available online for free.
To get your board or management committee started on the DYB board evaluation, just email

Future use of the surveys as evaluation tools

Once the surveys have been fully developed, tested and are relatively stable, it is envisaged that a data warehouse of de-identified survey results could be developed.

Boards will be able to upload their results into a secure online data warehouse on a regular basis. With a databank of results, it will eventually be possible for nonprofit boards

  • To benchmark their own performance against that of comparable boards (for example in terms of sector or size) and
  • To assess their own performance over time.

Having a databank of results will also inform future evidence-based research on nonprofit boards and assist the further development of the evaluation tools.

The DYB project adopts the following primary guiding perspectives for evaluation tools
  • They should empower users to have ownership of their evaluation and planning processes and build reflexive boards that pass on such learning skills to their successors
  • They need to be relevant to boards and their context. 'One size fits all' governance solutions are inappropriate in the nonprofit sector because of diversity of organisational cultures, size, activities and geography.
  • They need to be evidence based and responsive to different contexts. Prescriptive 'how to do it' tools based on 'armchair' thoughts around ideal or heroic boards can lead to inappropriate guidance and may eventually prove de-motivating.
  • They should encourage open discussion and interaction in a board on possible governance changes that would improve governance with positive impacts upon organisational effectiveness. 
  • They should engage multiple senses. Information will be presented in a variety of visual and oral formats to cater for differing learning styles and strengths.
  • They will be made convenient, easy to use and an interesting experience for participants.

Read our article published in the peer-reviewed journal, Nonprofit Management and Leadership which reports on preliminary results from pilot testing of the DYB Whole of Board evaluation.
Gavin Nicholson, Cameron Newton, & Myles McGregor-Lowndes, (2012) 'The nonprofit board as a team : pilot results and initial insights', Nonprofit Management and Leadership, vol 22 no. 4, pp. 383-528
Available via QUT e-prints


  • Robert D Herman and David O Renz (1997) 'Multiple Constituencies and the Social Construction of Nonprofit Organization Effectiveness', Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly, vol. 26(2) pp. 185-206.
  • Douglas K Jackson and Thomas P Holland (1998) 'Measuring the Effectiveness of Nonprofit Boards', Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly, vol. 27(2) pp. 159-182.
  • Mel Gill, Robert J Flynn, Elke Reissing (2005) 'The Governance Self-Assessment Checklist: An Instrument for Assessing Board Effectiveness', Nonprofit Management and Leadership, vol 15(3) pp. 271-294.