Who serves on today’s nonprofit boards? How are they composed and organized? How do they conduct their work? How well are they fulfilling their many important roles and responsibilities? What impact are they having on organizational performance?
Leading with Intent: 2017 BoardSource Index of Nonprofit Board Practices answered these questions as the latest in BoardSource’s series of studies tracking and analyzing trends in nonprofit board leadership since 1994. We encourage you to read the 2017 study; to reflect on the trends and insights about today’s nonprofit boards; and to act on the many opportunities we have to lead our missions to further success through exceptional board leadership.
Despite reporting high levels of dissatisfaction with current board demographics — particularly racial and ethnic diversity — boards are not prioritizing demographics in their recruitment practices. Nearly a fifth of all chief executives report they are not prioritizing demographics in their board recruitment strategy, despite being dissatisfied with their board’s racial and ethnic diversity.
More than half of all boards are actively working in concert with staff leadership to educate policymakers on behalf of their organization, but most organizations do not have formal policies around advocacy. Both chief executives and board chairs cite board member ambassadorship as a top three area for board improvement.
The board’s knowledge of the organization’s programs relates to board performance in several key areas: strategic thinking and planning, commitment and engagement, and fundraising and community outreach. This points to the importance of cultivating a deep understanding of the organization’s programs and operating environment through ongoing board education.
Boards that assess themselves get higher grades across all areas of board performance. Emphasizing the importance of regular board assessment, boards that assessed their performance more recently (within the past two years) report higher performance scores than those that assessed less recently
For both chief executives and board chairs, these two characteristics strongly correlate to their perceptions of the board’s overall impact on organizational performance. While there is no evidence that this relationship is causal, it does document a perceived connection between board performance and organizational performance, and may point to high-leverage opportunities for board development and growth.
How does your board compare to your peers in its composition, culture, and practices? Explore trends and insights about today’s nonprofit boards. And use the data to start a conversation with your board. Download the 2017 study.
Written resources, publications, templates, and tools on the topics below can be found on the BoardSource website.