Leading with Intent is the only national study of nonprofit governance that includes responses from both chief executives and board chairs and features responses from chief executives and board chairs from the same organization.

An initial survey was sent to a convenience sample of 26,962 nonprofit chief executives. This list comprised individual leaders who are a part of BoardSource’s network of leaders.

Eight-hundred-forty-six chief executives completed the first survey, which included 81 questions about board composition, structure, practices and performance. Additionally, chief executives were asked to share contact information for their board chairs and grant BoardSource permission to send a second survey that focused on the chair’s perceptions of board performance and dynamics. Of the 846 chief executives who completed the initial survey, 664 of them provided contact information for their board chairs. BoardSource sent the board chair survey to this group, and 37% of them (246 individuals) completed the board chair survey, which included 30 questions.

All surveys were completed between May 20, 2014, and July 14, 2014, and measured board practices that were current at the time of the surveys. The respondents represent a broad cross-section of the nonprofit sector, including public charities, associations, and foundations, as well as organizations with different budget sizes, geographic service regions, and mission areas. Of the chief executives, 37% represent small organizations with annual operating budgets less than $1 million, 49% represent medium organizations with budgets between $1 million and $9.9 million, and 14% represent large organizations with budgets of $10 million or more.

This is BoardSource’s eighth census of nonprofit board practices. Previous surveys — under the banner of the BoardSource Nonprofit Governance Index – were conducted in 1994, 1996, 1999, 2004, 2007, 2010, and 2012. Where possible, BoardSource conducted a generalized trend analysis (rather than a statistical comparison) of questions that had been included in previous surveys, though it is important to note that sample sizes are not consistent across all years.

Leading with Intent was written by Marla J. Bobowick, BoardSource senior governance consultant, in partnership with BoardSource’s program team, which is led by Vernetta Walker, vice president for programs & chief governance officer. Rosemary Tenuta, BoardSource’s director of assessment services, served as the project manager and lead data analyst. The survey was administered using survey software licensed from Qualtrics. In appreciation for their participation in the survey, respondents were offered a complimentary BoardSource publication.

Respondent Profile

The respondent pool represents a cross-section of nonprofit organizations based on budget size and geographic service area, as well as missions. Participating organizations are well distributed geographically and come from all 50 states with the exception of South Dakota. The respondents also include 11 non-U.S.-based organizations. (See Figures P1, P2, and P3 in the report.)

Chief Executives

The 846 individuals who responded to the chief executive survey have an average tenure of 9.3 years as chief executive, compared to 9.1 years in 2012. Their average age is 55, 89% are White, and 65% are female. However, the larger the organization, the more likely it is that the chief executive is male. (See Figures R1 and R2 in the report.)

Board Members

The average tenure of the 246 board chair respondents is 7.2 years. Board chair demographics represent the individual respondents’ characteristics; board chair and other board member demographics in diversity and inclusivity were reported by chief executives for boards. (See Figures R1 and R2 in the report.)