Leading with Intent: 2017 National Index of Nonprofit Board Practices reports on nonprofit board composition, practices, performance, and culture. This year’s study is BoardSource’s ninth, with previous studies conducted in 1994, 1996, 1999, 2004, 2007, 2010, 2012, and 2015.

Given the many years of data available, Leading with Intent highlights generalized trends and changes, but it is important to note that the respondents and sample size are not consistent across the years of the studies, and a statistical comparison was not conducted.

Leading with Intent is unique in that it collects responses and feedback from both chief executives and board chairs, creating opportunities to compare and contrast these perspectives. BoardSource received a total of 1,759 individual responses: 1,378 from chief executives and 381 from board chairs. The sample includes 214 organizations where both the chief executive and the board chair of the same organization completed the survey.

The Leading with Intent chief executive survey included 111 questions about board composition, structure, practices, performance, and culture. The board chair survey included 41 questions, many of which mirrored questions that were asked of the chief executives, with an emphasis on those questions that invited subjective ratings of board performance and culture. An overview of the raw findings and select comparative data tables are presented in the Data-at-a-Glance section of the report.

Respondent Profile

Respondents represent a broad cross-section of the nonprofit sector — including public charities, foundations, and other types of nonprofits — as well as organizations with different budget sizes, geographic service regions, and mission areas.

Survey Respondents Chart

BoardSource identified respondents in two primary ways:

1. A direct invitation from BoardSource to chief executives and board chairs who have opted-in to BoardSource’s network of leaders. On May 10, 2016, BoardSource sent the Leading with Intent survey to a convenience sample of 22,708 nonprofit chief executives and board chairs with an invitation to participate in the research project. Each individual was provided with a unique URL to the survey and encouraged to provide the name and contact information for his or her board chair or chief executive. If provided, BoardSource invited those individuals to participate in the survey, providing each with a unique URL.

2. An open invitation to participate in the study promoted through partner organizations and other broad outreach channels (social media, e-newsletter, daily news brief, etc.). BoardSource provided an open URL to the survey so it could be broadly and easily shared. This version of the survey included branching questions that directed respondents to the appropriate set of questions for chief executives or board chairs.