High functioning Boards play an important role in the success of social purpose organisations. For Boards to perform at their best, they need regular review to identify what elements of Board structure and process are working well, and which elements need improvement.

This document provides a template for a Board self-assessment survey, which can be used as part of a Board review process. Lirata invites social purpose organisations to adapt and use this survey to strengthen their governance.

About this template

Board review

Social purpose Boards have a complex role to play: driving strategy, managing risk and compliance, maintaining financial oversight, supporting and evaluating the performance of executive staff, and setting the tone for the culture and values of the organisation. Performing these functions consistently and effectively requires considerable skill.

Like any aspect of organisational performance, for governance to be done well it requires regular evaluation, with a genuine commitment to learning and development. Board performance evaluation needs to consider the range of functions and duties associated with the Board; the organisation’s governance systems and processes; the organisation’s culture and ways of working; and the development needs of the Board members.

There are many ways to undertake Board performance evaluation, ranging from reflection within Board meetings to individual interviews or independent assessment by an external governance expert. A Board self-assessment survey can form a useful and low-cost part of the process, and can be repeated periodically to gauge change over time.

The role of this survey

This Board self-assessment survey is designed to gather the perspectives of as many Board members as possible on the Board’s performance.

The survey covers seven main areas:

A. Strategic effectiveness

B. Finance, risk and compliance

C. Relationship with management

D. Board composition and Board member development

E. Ethics

F. Meetings and structures

G. Your own participation in the Board

The first six areas relate to the performance of the Board as a whole, while the final area asks each Board member to reflect on their own performance and contribution in their Board role. While the majority of items are scalar, the last few questions gather suggestions for improvement and support. Further open text questions can easily be added if needed.

To encourage candour, the survey is anonymous. In Boards where there is a high level of trust and where all Board members feel confident to voice divergent opinions, the Board may instead choose to have Board members own and share their responses.


Board members will need to be briefed on the governance review process and the role of the survey within it, and have a chance to discuss it, prior to its use.

Survey results should be aggregated, analysed and reported to Board. It is important that the Board take the time to discuss the survey results, consider their implications and decide on actions to strengthen the Board’s work. If the results show gaps or areas of weakness, remember that it is much better to have identified these and to have the chance to address them, than to let them run unchecked.

Adapt the survey

This template provides a starting point. It can be used “as is” but we also encourage you to adapt the wording and focus to fit your organisational context and governance approach. More specific questions can be added to gather input on particular aspects of governance process.

When Board members have been working together for some time and know each other well, there will often be value in customising questions to focus on areas already known to be challenging, or where the Board is seeking to identify new and more effective approaches.

Survey Monkey version

This survey template is also available as a SurveyMonkey online survey. We can share a copy of this survey to other SurveyMonkey accounts. Please contact us if you are a social purpose organisation and would like a copy of the SurveyMonkey survey to use and adapt for your own purposes.


NOTE: This article provides a summary of the survey questions. A formatted version including response options is available in the downloadable version of this article or by requesting the Survey Monkey online version from Lirata.

Dear Colleague,

Effective governance is an important enabler for the success of [ORGANISATION NAME].

Please help us to reflect on our performance as a Board by completing this anonymous survey.

The survey is grouped into seven sections (A-G). Sections A-F relate to the performance of the Board as a whole. In section G we ask you to reflect on your own performance in your Board role.

Please rate each item from 1 to 5:

  • 1 indicates Low / Strongly Disagree
  • 5 indicates High / Strongly Agree
  • Select N/A if you believe the item is not applicable, or you do not have enough information to rate the item.

Feel free to add comments about your answers, and about the functioning of the Board more generally, at the end of the survey.

Results will be collated and presented to the Board for discussion, again maintaining respondents’ confidentiality.

Please return this form to:


If you have further questions about this survey, please contact [INSERT DETAILS].

Thank you for taking the time to help us improve our work.

Yours sincerely,



A. Strategic effectiveness

1. The Board drives the development of the organisation’s focus and Strategic Plan.

2. The Board engages in open and positive two-way communication with key stakeholder groups (internal and external), and takes their views into account in decision making.

3. The Board regularly and effectively reviews the organisation’s performance in carrying out its mission and strategic objectives.

B. Finance, risk and compliance

4. The budget reflects the Board’s strategic priorities.

5. The Board has firm understanding and oversight of the organisation’s financial performance.

6. The Board effectively monitors the organisation’s compliance with legal and regulatory requirements and with applicable standards.

7. The Board is aware of and takes into account the spectrum of significant risks that may impact on the organisation, including strategic, health and safety, financial, fraud, reputational, legal, clinical, business continuity and other risks.

C. Relationship with management

8. The relationship between Board and staff respects the line between oversight and management, and is characterised by a climate of mutual trust.

9. The CEO receives a regular, fair and comprehensive performance review.

10. Reports and other information provided by staff are relevant, concise and provide sufficient information to support effective Board oversight and decision-making.

D. Board composition and Board member development

11. The Board has a diversity of talents, backgrounds and experience, and a range of perspectives to draw on in decision-making.

12. Board members have sufficient knowledge and skill (including sufficient financial literacy and industry knowledge) to perform their governance role effectively.

13. The Board effectively orients its members and supports them to access training and development opportunities to continue to improve their governance capacity.

14. The Board has effective succession plans in place for Board leadership roles.

E. Ethics

15. The Board operates ethically in accordance with its Code of Ethics (including consistently applying its rules regarding conflict of interest and confidentiality).

16. Board members and office-bearers exercise authority appropriately within the boundaries of their roles.

17. The Board handles conflict constructively and demonstrates a willingness to address issues proactively.

F. Meetings and structures

18. Meetings of the Board and its sub-groups (committees, sub-committees and/or working groups) make effective use of the time and talents of Board members.

19. Board deliberations focus on the matters of greatest significance for the organisation, internally and externally.

20. The culture of the Board is positive and enables Board members to fully and actively participate in Board deliberations.

21. Board sub-groups (committees, sub-committees and/or working groups) contribute to the effective functioning of the Board.

22. The Board’s annual calendar enables the Board to effectively allocate time and resources to execute its responsibilities.

23. The Board’s policies and procedures are clearly and consistently documented.

24. The Board has effective processes for reviewing and improving its own performance.

G. Your own participation in the Board

25. I come to Board meetings (and meetings of Board sub-groups) well prepared.

26. I participate actively in Board deliberations and support other Board members to participate.

27. I have a clear understanding of the Board’s policies, procedures and structures.

28. I have sufficient understanding of the organisation’s context, mission, strategic directions, programs and performance to effectively discharge my governance responsibilities.

29. I am active as an ambassador for the organisation within the community.

30. I actively contribute to the Board’s development and pursue opportunities to improve my own performance as a Board member.


We welcome your comments about your answers to the questions above, and more generally about the work and effectiveness of the Board.

31. What suggestions do you have for improving the Board’s functioning and contribution?

32. How could we support you to further improve your capability as a Board member?

33. Any other comments?

Thank you

Thanks for sharing your perspective on our Board’s performance. We look forward to your contribution as we continue to develop our governance processes.

External Resources


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Suggested citation

Planigale, M. 2021. Social purpose governance: Board self-assessment survey. Melbourne: Lirata Ltd.

About the author

Photo of Mark Planigale
Mark Planigale
Mark is a high-profile consultant who led Lirata's work between 2010-2023. Mark combines expertise in research and evaluation, organisational development, social work practice, IT and social justice advocacy.

Assistance with Board review

Lirata assists social purpose organisations to review and strengthen their governance, to maximise their effectiveness. In addition to offering the Board survey process, we design and facilitate custom Board review processes.

For further information or assistance, please contact the Lirata team.