New Study Underscores Importance of Effective NFP Boards

Thoughtware Article Published: Oct 01, 2017
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BoardSource, an organization dedicated to advancing the public good by building exceptional not-for-profit (NFP) boards and inspiring board service, has been collecting and analyzing trends in NFP board practices, policies and performance since 1994. BoardSource conducts biennial case studies on board governance, including this year’s Leading with Intent: 2017 National Index of Nonprofit Board Practices (LWI). LWI is the only national survey to gather information from both chief executives and board chairs on their boardroom experiences. The 2017 survey includes 1,378 chief executive officer and 381 board chair responses, which exceeds the 2015 survey by more than 50 percent. Survey questions include board composition and structure, performance and practices and culture.

BoardSource observed five key findings:

  1. Boards are no more diverse than they were two years ago, and current recruitment priorities indicate this is unlikely to change.
  2. Boards are starting to embrace their roles as advocates for their missions, but stronger leadership is still needed.
  3. Strong program understanding is linked to stronger engagement, strategy and external leadership, including fundraising.
  4. Boards that regularly assess their performance perform better on core responsibilities. Boards that assess themselves get higher grades across all areas of board performance.
  5. Chief executives and board chairs agree that the board has an effect on organizational performance and that these two board characteristics matter most: understanding roles and responsibilities and the ability to work as a collaborative team toward shared goals.

In response to its observations, BoardSource offers five suggestions for board reflection:

  1. Help your board cultivate a deeper understanding of your organization’s work.
  2. Create opportunities to build your board’s comfort with—and engagement in—providing leadership outside the boardroom.
  3. Explore and define your organization’s values as they relate to diversity, inclusion and equity.
  4. Check in regularly on how well your board understands—and is fulfilling—its roles and responsibilities.
  5. Invest in the board’s culture.

You can read the full study here. For additional information, contact your trusted BKD advisor.

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