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Community Action Agency Board Members Toolkit in a Nutshell

CHAPTER FOURTEEN:  Evaluation of the Executive Director, Funder Relationships and of the CAA as an Agency

This chapter reviews ways for the CAA to assess or evaluate (a) the Executive Director, (b) relationships with funding agencies, and (c) the CAA as a whole.

A. Executive Director

Evaluation elements: 

1. The evaluation should involve people who know the Executive Director's work in different ways. Ideally, this would include the Board and Board President, the staff, and key community contacts.
2. The evaluation should include the Executive Director as a major presenter and self-evaluator.
3. The evaluation should include attention to standard management skills as well as the agency's particular needs and situation.
4. The evaluation should distinguish between regular, on-going work, and handling of unusual circumstances.
5. The evaluation should focus on measurable results and be related to the job description.


I.  Appraisal should be planned on a regular basis to review agreed-upon standards of performance, including the results the Executive Director agreed to produce.

  a. Job Description:  Principal duties. Reviewed and updated annually.
  b. Performance Standards:  Day-to-day duties, expressed in measurable terms, qualitative and quantitative.
  c. Objectives: Duties beyond routine. Future responsibilities and expected achievements.
  d. Assessment of Results:  Degree of progress achieved.

II. Employee performance-based appraisal is a four-step process that places the major responsibility on the Executive Director.

  a. Executive Director presents the annual performance report to the Board of Directors.
  b. Board of Directors reviews the Executive Director's presentation. Evaluation of Executive Director's performance, based upon job description, performance standards, determination of objectives accomplished, and assessment of results. Targeting of future responsibilities and how results will be measured.
  c. The Board conducts a performance review with the Executive Director privately to discuss the Board's views. Discuss performance standards and objectives. Agree on updated job description.
  d. The Board and Executive Director agree on next year's measurement criteria based on the organization's annual plan.

      All steps are documented in writing. The Executive Director may find the same procedure useful in evaluating staff.

    Here is another sample of a GUIDE TO EVALUATION OF EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR.  Source:   Health and Community Services Council of Hawaii, Room 602, 200 North Vineyard Boulevard, Honolulu, Hawaii

1.  Relationship to Board and Committees

   *   Does he/she relate well to Board members?
   *  Does he/she communicate his/her ideas clearly and show leadership?
   *   Does he/she listen and help discern the direction of the Board?
   *  Does he/she propose directions, assist Board and Committee leadership develop agenda and identify critical issues for decision-making?
    * Does he/she show enthusiasm, vision, and encouragement in the development of the council?
    * Does he/she see to it that enough material is provided for Board and Committee decision-making?
    * Does he/she assist the Board in a strong independent and accountable policy-making body?

2.  Relationship to Members and Community Leaders

      Does he/she work effectively with:

    * The leadership of the United Way and other agencies?
   *  Leaders in government, especially in those agencies that relate to human services?
   *  The leaders of voluntary organizations?
   *  Leadership in the grassroots community?
    * Leadership in foundations?
    * Church leadership?
    * Corporate leadership which relate to the council?
    * What image of the council does he/she project?

3.  Relationship to Staff

    * Does he/she employ staff that can carry out the work of the council?
   *  Does he/she establish a good working relationship among staff?
   *  Does he/she communicate well with staff, individually and as a group?
   *  Does he/she contribute to staff development?
   *  Does he/she encourage creativity and enthusiasm among staff for the work of the council?
    * Does he/she provide adequate supervision and evaluation for the staff?

4.  Professional and Personal Competencies

   * Does he/she keep up with changes in policies, practices, and personnel in the neighborhoods, communities, and institutions as well as on the national level?
  * Does he/she show evidence of developing his/her knowledge of the local and national scene and his/her community planning and administrative skills?
  * Does he/she show ability in carrying out the financial management of the council, including budgeting, financial reporting and control?
  * Does he/she show flexibility and creativity in relating the council, including budgeting, financial reporting and control?
  * Does he/she show flexibility and creativity in relating the council to the current needs of the community?
  * Does he/she show commitment to the goals of the council and to the betterment of the community?

B. Board and Funding Agency Relationships

    The key concepts are: 

    RESULTS. Any funding source is "buying results" from you. They want their goals and purposes to be accomplished.

    ACCOUNTABILITY. They want to insure that you are accountable to them, and to the other significant publics, for what you do and how you do it.

    INTEGRITY. They want to be sure that you are honest in your dealings with them and in your handling of their assets. Every contract is a partnership where the actions of one reflect upon the reputation of the other. And nobody likes to feel like they are getting ripped off.

     These four factors can be "mixed" very differently.

A. Foundations.  Foundations tend to emphasize the YOUR SELECTION OF A PROBLEM AREA IN WHICH THEY ARE CURRENTLY INTERESTED and the present of CORRECT SOCIAL VALUES in the recipient of funds (i.e. -- you) as a form of results. They do not give you money to solve your problems. They give you money to implement the foundation's value structure. They tend to select and fund people who have similar ideological and value structures as theirs, and they rely on their personal judgments to provide that information. Once they have blessed you, some of them seem to lose interest. Some foundations will send you a check and thank-you-and-goodbye. Others want only a final report. Still others want an audit. Others may want periodic narrative reports, usually in the form of a letter to them. Only a few foundations will schedule on-site visits. These relationships tend to be fairly informal and unstructured. They are very fluid and can change quickly. 

B. Corporations. Corporations tend to emphasize the visible results in the community and their name in association with those results. Corporations want projects that have some connection with their corporate purpose. If the right product is created at the right time, they are usually not too concerned about how you did it. Since they may not have "standard procedures" for dealing with entities like yours, you have to invent the relationship for each project. Corporations rarely require audits as long as you produce the desired results.

C. Public Agencies. The public agencies tend to focus on accountability as the main issue. Bad publicity alleging misuse of funds is so damaging to the legislators that supported a program to the public agency that administers it and to the careers of the officials who administer them that they are always extremely focused on accountability. To protect the program, their agency and themselves they devise and require use of complex management systems. 

    These rules and management systems are designed primarily to serve the needs of the funding agency. The systems may or may not be useful to the agency staff and Board. There is often considerable confusion when one party does not understand the purpose of a system and tries to use it for something other than the purpose it was designed to accomplish.

    This is not necessarily correct, of course, and the trend in the past few years has been towards "performance-based" contracting wherein you are responsible primarily for RESULTS and are given more flexibility in terms of how you produce those results. There is often great difficulty is specifying exactly what results are to be produced and in measuring to determine if the agreed upon results were produced.

    In the CSBG, a national monitoring and assessment task force sponsored by HHS/Office of Community Services has developed a set of six national goals for the CSBG. For each goal, they identified examples of results measures under each of those goals. All CAAs should be using those materials and relating their activity to that framework. You can select your own goals and measures, but there should be some way to relate them to the national goals.

    Public agencies may emphasize communication as a tool in the accountability process. Some public agencies deal almost entirely with the Board or Board Chair. Others with a Committee of the Board and the Executive Director. Others relate primarily or entirely with the Executive Director or a program director. Some require both the Board and the Executive to sign applications or contracts. Other require the Board to sign. Some allow the Board's designee to sign (i.e. the Executive Director). Some send only one letter to the agency. Other send copies to the Board Chair, or to all Board members. These practices vary widely from agency to agency and often change.

    Virtually all public agencies require audits. Most specify the topics they want covered in the audits. Fortunately they are also willing to pay for the cost of doing the audits.

C. Self Assessment of a Community Action Agency

There are basically four types of standards for self-assessment.

1. You compare yourself with standards that you have imposed on yourself – your own goals, desired results, etc. This category would include contractual standards from a funding organization that you have agreed to meet in order to get their money. This is the “planned” versus “actual” comparison.
2. Reviewing your results over time. Are we better than we were last year?  Are we getting better over time?
3. Comparing yourself with peers. How are we doing in comparison with other CAAs?  This is difficult because you are often comparing apples and oranges. However, there are evaluations done on various programs both nationally and in other states. This includes Head Start, WX, and other programs. These reports provide one way to compare yourself with how others are doing. 
  The United Way has much useful information on evaluation. Check them out at:
  The Urban Institute also publishes useful tools. Look at:
4. Comparing yourself with “ideal” standards. These might include statutory standards (and you better meet those J).

The ideal standards also include the standards created by your peers through the national associations. The Community Action Code of Ethics creates standards for all of us. The Code can be found at:

     The community action Partnership has adopted standards of what constitutes excellence in a community action agency. Whether you apply for the award or not, you should be using these standard to assess your CAA. These can be found on the Partnership web site at:

Many interesting and useful new tools are coming out of the ROMA process. See both the NASCSP website and

* * *

End of Chapter 14 Quiz

1. What are some of the source of the factors that should be used when evaluating the Executive Director?
2. What are some of the relationships that might be evaluated?
3. Should the same standards or criteria be used to evaluate the relationships with every funding source?
4. This toolkit named four ways that a CAA can evaluate itself. Which of these would be most productive or useful for use in your CAA right now? Why?

Chapter 14 Quiz Answers

1. The performance of the CAA Executive Director should be evaluated in terms of the agreement reached between the Board and the ED about what the ED is supposed to do – i.e. do not wait to make up the criteria until AFTER the year has passed. Reach agreement on the criteria that will be used BEFORE the year begins.
2. The Executive Director is the manager of several sets of relationships, including the relationships to the board, to staff, to other agencies, to community leaders, and to funders.
3. Probably not. Every funder has specific things they want from you. Whether you are able to meet their unique expectations is one element that should be considered.
4. The four ways are to compare your CAA with:
  a. Standards you set for yourself (planned-versus-actual)
  b. progress over time
  c. your peers
  d. ideal standards

Which of these would be most useful for your agency to use over the course of the next year or so?  How will you bring this to the attention of the Board and the Executive Director?


Good luck! And remember, if you have questions about any of this, e-mail Jim Masters at the Center for Community Futures, or call him at 510-339-3801.

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