Commissioner Tools Best Practices

Click here to print a copy of this article.

With each passing month, more councils have gone live with Commissioner Tools, and through their experience our collective knowledge increases. Some councils have decided to make a gradual entry into the Commissioner Tools “pool” by recommending their commissioners get comfortable with the new processes by starting with a few Simple unit assessments. Other councils have figuratively walked around to the deep end of the pool, stepped out on the diving board, and plunged right into Commissioner Tools, asking their commissioners to establish a good unit “baseline” by starting with a Detailed unit assessment. Though different, these two approaches ultimately yield the same result—full immersion in the Commissioner Tools “pool.”

There are two general types of assessments but many options:

  • Paper or computer. The first option when making an entry in Commissioner Tools is whether to collect the information on a piece of paper so it can be entered into a computer later, or to make the entry directly into Commissioner Tools while online. For those commissioners who do not have a computer or a good Internet connection, or if they are “computer shy,” the paper route might be best, allowing entry of the information at a later date and perhaps even by another individual on behalf of the commissioner who actually made the contact. An occasional question asked is whether all your work is lost if your computer crashes while you are in the middle of a long Commissioner Tools entry, or something similar happens that disrupts your Internet connection. Fortunately not; Commissioner Tools saves your data as it is entered, data field by data field— which means the most information you will lose is the information for the last data field in which you were entering data.
  • One Simple Assessment, three types of Detailed Assessments. Through various training we’ve advertised the fact that a commissioner can literally make a Simple Assessment in less than 90 seconds. Each Unit Service Plan group (Planning and Budget, Membership, Program, and Leadership and Governance) in a Detailed Assessment can be completed either unilaterally by the commissioner or collaboratively by the commissioner and the unit Key 3. Look elsewhere in this issue of The Commissioner for the article “Why Do a Unit Service Plan?” to learn how a Collaborative Detailed Assessment is key to that process. Even though step one of a Detailed Assessment provides summary information about the unit’s training and membership status, completing the seven steps of a Detailed Assessment can be quite involved and time consuming. Did you know that for each of the four Unit Service Plan groups in a Detailed Assessment you can independently create a summary entry? That means you could create a Detailed Assessment with four summary entries, or three, or two, or just one—it’s your choice, and you should make your decision based upon your needs. I like the term “intermediate assessment” to differentiate between completed Detailed Assessments with all the subelements and those assessments that use summary entries.

Some have correctly observed that trying to complete a Detailed Assessment with a unit’s Key 3—which is a Collaborative Detailed Assessment—in a single meeting might be too large of an undertaking. When this was first suggested to me, I thought of the old joke about how you eat an elephant— one bite at a time. Did you know that by working with your unit’s Key 3 you could complete a piece of the Collaborative Detailed Assessment over a series of successive sessions, changing the date to the next scheduled contact date and saving the contact as a work in “Progress” each time until you are finished?


Summarized, the types of assessments commissioners can use to document their unit contacts are:

  • Simple
  • Detailed
    • Intermediate with the commissioner summarizing one or more of the Unit Service Plan groups
    • Unilateral with the commissioner completing all Unit Service Plan groups
    • Collaborative where the commissioner works with the unit’s Key 3

Within Commissioners Administration, when you seek to link a commissioner to a unit you have a choice: You can either assign a commissioner to a unit or assign a unit to a commissioner. While similar, there are some subtle differences. To assign a commissioner to a unit, first select the unit, then click on the Assign Commissioner button to see the pop-up window of commissioners from which you can select who are in the same district or subdistrict as the unit. Select the commissioner of choice and confirm by clicking on the Assign Commissioner button.

To assign a unit to a commissioner, first select the commissioner, then click on the Assign Unit button to see the pop-up window of units from which you can select, and then confirm by clicking on the Assign Unit button.

Note that at this time, assigning commissioners across district boundaries can be accomplished only by commissioners whose natural context allows them to see across the district lines, such as an assistant council commissioner.

It is important to keep in mind that the Commissioners Administration module will also allow you to assign multiple commissioners to the same unit, which may be helpful when you have a new commissioner taking over for an experienced commissioner.