Leading with Intent:
BoardSource Index of Nonprofit Board Practices

Participate Now in the 2023 Survey

What is Leading with Intent?

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.

The 2023-2024 research is going on now! The survey will highlight leadership transitions, diversity, equity, and inclusion in the board, and the impact of COVID-19 on board culture. We invite all nonprofit chief executives and board chairs to participate in the 11th edition of Leading with Intent to help inform new educational resources and better understand nonprofit board leadership practices, trends, and norms within the field.


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Key Findings from the Previous Leading with Intent Report

1. Boards are disconnected from the communities and people they serve.

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.”

2. Boards that prioritize fundraising above all else when it comes to the board’s role do so at the expense of organizational strategy, relevance, and impact.

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.

3. Boards and executives should reflect on what is prioritized in terms of board expectations and how time is spent.

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.

4. The board chair’s leadership in ensuring that there are clear expectations of board service seems to matter most when it comes to the board’s overall culture.

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.

Leading with Intent: BoardSource Index of Nonprofit Board Practices

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.

Download the 2021 Study

Leading with Intent: Reviewing the State of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion on Nonprofit Boards

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.

Learn More.

Additional Resources

Written resources, publications, templates, and tools on the topics below can be found on the BoardSource website, or review the study methodology.

Download Leading with Intent 2021

Download Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Findings


Recognition & Thanks

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 Bridgespan Group, Building Movement Project, Candid, and ProInspire.

Finally, BoardSource thanks the following organizations for their generous support of our leadership work: Annenberg Foundation, Annie E. Casey Foundation, Barr Foundation, Borealis Racial Equity in Philanthropy Fund, California Wellness Foundation, Chicago Community Foundation, Conrad N. Hilton Foundation, Fidelity Charitable Trustees’ Initiative, Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, Grunin Foundation, JPB Foundation, Margaret A. Cargill Philanthropies, Northwest Area Foundation, Robert Sterling Clark Foundation, Surdna Foundation, University of Arkansas, Funded by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, UPS Foundation, Walter & Elise Haas Fund, William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, and Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation.