A board self-assessment is the simplest tool to evaluate your foundation’s grantmaking program. It can be a simple survey asking board members to consider and respond to questions, such as the following:
Do people know what’s important to the foundation?
Does the foundation have a mission statement and description of program interests easily available to the public? Does the board publish an annual report or guidelines and a grant list that describe the foundation’s work?
What are we achieving as a foundation?
Do we see ourselves making progress toward our mission? What is different because of the grants we’ve made? Is our program still relevant to the community we’re serving? Do we know enough about the programs to know how to improve them over time? Is there a more effective way for us to be engaged in this work?
How effective are we in building a relationship with grantees?
Does the foundation make grantseekers aware of the steps and timing involved in the grantmaking process? Is the foundation timely in acknowledging proposals and communicating grant decisions? Do grantees feel comfortable acknowledging failures or trouble areas of a program funded by the foundation?
These are just samples of many questions you might ask the board and staff. You can use their collective responses as a way to gauge where the foundation is at, and where you want to go in the future. Note that a self-assessment of the grantmaking program is different than a self-assessment of the board itself—which would focus more on the board’s function and structure, its bylaws and committees, policies and decisionmaking processes.
For more information, refer to our primer on Board Self-Assessment.
Exponent Philanthropy also offers a Practical Board Self-Assessment toolkit that you can conduct yourself, or you can engage our staff to assist you with the assessment. Exponent Philanthropy’s Practical Board-Assessment is a highly flexible tools – you mix and match the topics you want to include, from board dynamics through compliance and oversight to special sections for staffed, family, corporate, community, and other foundation types. The assessment includes a board meeting assessment and a grantee and applicant perception survey. For more information, refer to our overview