Organizational Self-Assessment Tool (OSAT)

Welcome to the Organizational Self-Assessment Tool for HIV/AIDS Funded Organizations and Programs (OSAT). This voluntary-use tool was developed by the Ontario Organizational Development Program (OODP) to assist ASOs and HIV-funded programs to strengthen their capacity to improve the quality and effectiveness of their organizations and programs.

The OSAT goes beyond annual reporting requirements to strengthen accountability and build strong, healthy organizations into the future. It has been developed to:
  • Assist Boards and Executive Directors (EDs) to assess their community-based organization’s capacity to meet accountability requirements and better achieve its mission and goals;
  • Grow the body of knowledge and skills across the HIV/AIDS sector required to build and sustain strong organizations; and
  • Provide a framework that helps HIV/AIDS organizations and programs be more systematic about identifying organizational/program strengths as well as gaps and areas for improvement.

The information gathered through applying this tool should provide your organization with a detailed assessment of what is working well and what areas would benefit from improvement.

Organizational self-assessment tools offer a number of advantages for the organizations choosing to use them. In general, research shows that organizations are more likely to undertake improvements when the improvement process has been self-managed and when the assessment report clearly identifies areas in which organizational improvements can be made.
This organizational self-assessment tool is designed to be:
  • Practical and easy to use;
  • Completed at your own pace;
  • Flexible – can begin with any module;
  • Based on an adult learning approach;
  • Unique to each HIV/AIDS program/organization;
  • EDs/Boards can adapt these modules to their own organization’s capacity and/or individual needs;
  • A catalyst for program planning and evaluation; and
  • Assistive towards developing knowledge and building successful practices that support healthy organizational development across the sector.
Please note: The tool has been developed to build on the organizational review guidelines developed for AIDS Bureau funded organizations and programs, as of October 2010. Further changes to AIDS Bureau guidelines, policies and procedures after this publication date may result in revisions to this tool over a period of time. If discrepancies exist between this document and the current AIDS Bureau guidelines, policies or procedures, the AIDS Bureau’s latest communication to organizations must be followed. 

of this tool

This tool has been designed to help your organization or program demonstrate increased accountability and build capacity. In completing the self-assessment tool, you can evaluate the overall capacity of your organization or program and identify priority areas where investments (including such resources as human or financial) can be made to improve functioning.  

The assessment results can help you to:
  • Increase the capacity and improve functioning of your organization or program; 
  • Prioritize areas for improvement (individually and across the sector); 
  • Identify what’s working well and gather evidence for development of best practices (individually and across the sector); and
  • Track and report progress to community Boards, community stakeholders, funders and potential donors.

conditions for success

  1. Make sure there is commitment and support from the organization’s top leadership for taking this assessment process on and that you completed the planning needed to ensure a smooth process with sufficient resources.

  2. Ensure this is the most appropriate time for your organization to undertake this assessment process. It should be done at a time when the organization is stable and financially sustainable, and can commit the time and resources to make this successful. It should not be undertaken when there are other major organizational initiatives underway (e.g. strategic planning, organizational reviews, etc.) or when ‘high-impact’ decisions are expected to be made by an external source within the next 6 months.

  3. Be organized! The more organized, methodical and thorough you are in your approach to gathering documentation, the easier it will make your meetings. People will feel more confident when they are able to reference and support an answer or get clarity that an area for development has been identified.

  4. Make certain that you have planned the process in a way that will be a positive experience for those who participate! At the end of the day, this process should result in a stronger organization but it is hard leg work to get it all done. Be supportive, provide incentives and make it fun for those who participate if possible!

  5. Recognize achievements along the way!

  6. Be open to new ideas and different ways of seeing things. Know why you are doing this assessment and what you want to do with the results. It is about building stronger and better functioning organizations and should not be used as a tool to resolve operational, financial or human resources (HR) issues.

  7. The more effort you put into this process, the more your organization will benefit. A half-hearted effort will generate similar level results. Only complete the modules that you are able to do well if you cannot complete them all.


The organizational self-assessment tool has been organized into the 5 distinct sections or modules. These 5 areas were chosen to more closely align HIV/AIDS organizations and programs with standards that are being developed for the community-based sector1, and to offer a basic framework that will provide Executive Directors and Board members with a more systematic way to build organizational capacity. 

The five (5) modules are:
  1. Governance & Strategic Leadership (By-Laws, Incorporation, Boards and Strategic Planning);
  2. Human Resources (Hiring & Recruitment, Job Descriptions, HR policies, Workplace Environment);
  3. Operations (Managing, Finance, IT, Physical Plant);
  4. Program/Service Management (Planning and Evaluation, Community Development); and
  5. PHA Engagement (Policies/Statements/Guidelines that support the involvement and inclusion of people living with HIV/AIDS).  

Each module lists up to 15 questions relevant to each topic area (15 main questions, some with subsets) to promote successful practices and ensure compliance with all written agreements with the AIDS Bureau and with relevant provincial and/or federal laws, statues and regulations. 

It is recommended that your organization use the tool to complete an assessment at least once every 3-5 years, unless situations emerge that would trigger your organization to want to look more closely at one of the areas sooner. Another approach would be to pick 1-2 modules to review each year, thereby making the task more manageable. If so, choose modules that focus on similar areas such as HR and Operations to reduce the amount of work involved for questions that are inter-related. You need to determine what is the best approach for your organization, however all components should be reviewed at least once every 3-5 years. 

Please note: these modules do not address all of the legal and funder requirements that impact non-profit organizations. For a complete list of the AIDS Bureau funding requirements and list of Provincial and Federal Statutes that apply to ASOs, please consult the Resource Manual for Community-Based Organizations funded by the AIDS Bureau, Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care. It can be downloaded from the OODP website at by clicking on Publications/Reports.

1    Organizational Standards have been developed by the Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants (OCASI). See Organizational Standards for Ontario’s Immigrant & Refugee Serving Sector. (October 2009) here

Also, community-based organizational standards were developed by a collaboration of 5 associations to establish the Canadian Centre for Accreditation as of April 2012.  See announcement here.


Before you begin, it is important to take a step back and ensure you know what is involved in completing the assessment tool before you get started and that you are ready to do the necessary work. You need to consider what resources will be required as well as whom you want to involve and what steps need to be completed over what period of time (e.g. choose an approach as suggested under About the Modules).

To help with this, it is recommended that you set up an ad hoc organizational assessment committee to help develop, plan and monitor the process for how and when you want to complete all 5 modules. The committee should be composed of the organization’s leadership, including the Executive Director and Board Chair or alternative Board member, plus other staff or volunteers, including PHAs, that bring subject matter expertise or additional knowledge to the table. This will support a more informed process and strengthen accountability. Your committee should be kept small with a suggested limit of 5 people.


  • The first time you use this tool to assess your organization will be the most work. It gets easier with each succeeding assessment provided that you update your organizational records and incorporate the changes needed to strengthen your organization in a systematic way;

  • It’s not necessary (and may not be possible) to complete all of the questions for each module in one sitting. As stated earlier, choose which module you want to begin with and see it through to completion before moving on to the next;

  • For each module, the ad hoc committee should assess what is required and who should be involved (e.g. staff, volunteers and/or Board members) as well as what timelines you are working within (e.g. a completion date). For example, depending on the size and scope of your organization, it may be most appropriate for the Board of Directors of your organization to lead the completion of  the Governance and Strategic Leadership module, whereas the Executive Director along with the most appropriate Manager or Administrative Assistant could complete the Human Resources module, and a small focus group of the organization’s community volunteers led by the most appropriate staff person could provide input to the PHA Engagement Module and so on;

  • Whatever approach you choose, involving others in the process will help to build support to take action in addressing the needed improvements once you are done;
  • At the beginning of each module, prior to the preparation meeting with the participants, review the list of documents and assign someone to methodically pull the documents together. Ensure that all of the documents are circulated to the participants at least a week in advance of your scheduled meeting. It is also helpful if the documents are available at the meeting in hard or soft copy to be used for reference.

  • At the beginning of each module, hold a preparation meeting with the participants (volunteers and/or staff) to review the list of questions that need to be addressed and ensure you have considered all the possible materials and types of information that will be needed. It could also give you an opportunity to answer any preliminary questions, clarify the process and set up a meeting schedule if needed;

  • Take notes! These meetings do not require minutes, but a written summary of each session would help to keep a record of any questions, issues or concerns that get raised. A small space for keeping notes has been provided at the end the table for each module but it may not be sufficient. Keep notes for each session in a separate document if needed; and

  • Ask for help! The HIV/AIDS Provincial Resource Programs listed in the Where It All Began section are there to help if needed. If you require on-site consulting assistance, contact the OODP Program Administrator by phone to further discuss your needs at 1-855-761-9209 or send an email request to:

  • needed improvements once you are done;
  • important instructions

    The information you provide is confidential. It will not be shared with the Funder and will not impact the funding you receive. All data is stored on servers within Canada.
    • The data collected may be aggregated (summarized) for reporting purposes by the OODP. It will not contain the names of organizations/programs or identify an individual agency’s specific responses.
    • As you go through the assessment, your responses will automatically be saved.
    • You can stop your assessment and continue at another time.

    Once you complete each module, you will be given a score that tells you how many ‘yes’ you answered to identify the existence in your agency of the policies and procedures that you were asked about. You will also be provided with a list of supports available from the OODP as well as a list of resources (web links) that are relevant to the module and can assist you in strengthening your agency. You will then move to a section called “Using the Results” that will help your agency plan its next steps.

    List of Documents Required

    The following list of documents and materials are ones that should be available before you begin. It will be helpful to review this information as background in advance or to have it available to refer to when preparing your response. 


    General Documentation Review

    • Annual Report
    • Strategic Plan
    • Mission and/or Vision Statement
    • Organizational Chart
    • Administrative Policies and Procedures
    • Operating budget(s) for prior two years
    • Audited Financial Statements for prior two years
    • Program Plans for prior two years

    Note:  If you do not have all the materials above, it should not stop you from completing the assessment but may help to indicate where improvements are required.



    Production of the OODP Organizational Self‐Assessment Tool for HIV/AIDS‐funded Organizations and Programs (OSAT) has been made possible through financial contributions by the Public Health Agency of Canada’s AIDS Community Action Program (ACAP), Ontario Region and the AIDS Bureau, Ontario Ministry of Health and Long‐Term Care.

    Copyright to the Organizational Self‐Assessment Tool is held by the Ontario Organizational
    Development Program (OODP). The OODP acknowledges the contributions of Radha Nayar, OODP Consultant and Lead Author, in preparing this document together with edits and revisions from Judith Tresidder, past OODP Program Administrator, and Joanne Lush, Senior Program Consultant for the AIDS Bureau, in addition to further contributions from OODP consultants, Dionne A. Falconer, Beth Jordan, Murray Jose‐Boerbridge and John Miller.

    The OODP encourages the use of the Organizational Self‐Assessment Tool by organizations. However, any such publication shall acknowledge OODP as the source and the above‐named individuals as contributors. Its content cannot be edited or otherwise altered without permission of the OODP.