Using Self-Assessments to Improve Board Performance and Build Nonprofit Capacity


  • Joanne G. Carman University of North Carolina at Charlotte
  • Judith L. Millesen



Governance, Self-Assessment, Nonprofit Capacity


This paper presents the nonprofit board self-assessment tool as a valuable, formative addition to the toolkit of nonprofit stakeholders, including evaluators, who are focused on improving both board and organizational performance. Using self-assessment data from a study of 156 nonprofits, the study tested five hypotheses about the effectiveness of five nonprofit governance best practices: strategic planning, reducing ambiguity on the board, board giving, strong internal controls, and evaluating the chief executive officer. The study finds that some nonprofit management best practices are more effective than others when it comes to assessing board performance. Moreover, consistent with previous research, board members and CEOs occasionally view performance differently. The paper concludes with a discussion about how nonprofit organizations, evaluators, and others can use these findings, as well as self-assessment tools, to improve nonprofit board governance and strengthen organizational capacity.

Author Biographies

Joanne G. Carman, University of North Carolina at Charlotte

Joanne G. Carman is a Professor in the Department of Political Science and Public Administration at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, where she teaches in the Master of Public Administration program and serves as the Coordinator for the Graduate Certificate in Nonprofit Management. Her research focuses on nonprofit management, governance, accountability, and program evaluation use and practice.

Judith L. Millesen

Judith L. Millesen most recently worked at the College of Charleston as a professor and MPA Director. Her research is focused on nonprofit administration and capacity building with special interests in board governance and community philanthropy.  






Research Articles