Who serves on today’s nonprofit boards? What matters most when it comes to the board’s roles and responsibilities? What impact are they having on organizational performance? How do boards conduct their work? How well are they fulfilling their many important roles and responsibilities? How are boards composed and organized?
Leading with Intent: BoardSource Index of Nonprofit Board Practices answers these questions as the latest in BoardSource’s series of studies tracking and analyzing trends in nonprofit board leadership since 1994.
Almost half (49%) of all chief executives said that they did not have the right board members to “establish trust with the communities they serve.” Only a third of boards (32%) place a high priority on “knowledge of the community served,” and even fewer (28%) place a high priority on “membership within the community served.”
Executives that reported placing the highest level of importance on fundraising have lower ratings in several key areas of performance as compared to those that do not place such high importance on fundraising.
When asked to rate how much time is spent on each board area, executives reported that not enough time was spent on building a diverse and inclusive board with a commitment to equity, understanding the context in which the organization is working, building relationships within the community that help support and inform the organization’s work (Separate From Fundraising).
But, when asked about how important these areas are, executives placed them very low on the list in terms of their expectations for the board.
When executives rated their chairs higher in terms of the board chair’s performance in all categories, but especially in ensuring clear expectations, the executive was more likely to rate the board higher than the average across all areas of board culture.
While we cannot determine causation or even directionality, it may be helpful for boards that are having culture challenges to consider the ways in which changes in board chair engagement could make a difference.
How does your board compare to your peers in its composition, culture, and practices? Who serves on your board? What matters most when it comes to your board’s roles and responsibilities? What impact are you having on organizational performance? How does your board conduct its work? Explore trends and insights about today’s nonprofit boards in Leading with Intent: BoardSource Index of Nonprofit Board Practices. And use the data to start a conversation with your board.
In Leading with Intent: Reviewing the Current State of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion on Nonprofit Boards, we explore how boards are or are not reflective of the communities they are seeking to serve, how boards are thinking about racial inequity in relation to the organization’s mission and programmatic outcomes, and current board practices related to diversity, equity, and inclusion.
Written resources, publications, templates, and tools on the topics below can be found on the BoardSource website, or review the study methodology.
BoardSource’s Research Advisory Council shared valuable input on the survey questions, key analysis areas, key findings, and the development of this report. Learn more about our Research Advisory Council.
BoardSource also thanks those organizations that provided valuable input on the survey instrument and helped disseminate the survey to their networks, including The Alliance for Nonprofit Management, The Bridgespan Group, Building Movement Project, Candid, The Center for Effective Philanthropy, Change Philanthropy, CompassPoint, Council on Foundations, D5 Compass, Exponent Philanthropy, Grantmakers for Effective Organizations, Independent Sector, La Piana, National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy, National Center for Family Philanthropy, National Council of Nonprofits, The Nonprofit Quarterly, Propel Nonprofits, and The United Philanthropy Forum.
Finally, BoardSource thanks the following organizations for their generous support of our leadership work: the Annenberg Foundation, the Barr Foundation, the Margaret A. Cargill Foundation, the Annie E. Casey Foundation, the Fidelity Charitable Trustees Initiative, the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, the Conrad Hilton Foundation, the Gordon & Betty Moore Foundation, the Northwest Area Foundation, the Ralph M. Parsons Foundation, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the Surdna Foundation, the UPS Foundation, and the Racial Equity in Philanthropy Fund, a donor collaborative housed at Borealis Philanthropy, which includes support from the Ford Foundation, W.K.Kellogg Foundation, Rockefeller Brothers Foundation, Conrad N. Hilton Foundation, and the Raikes Foundation.