Board Performance Evaluated and Given B-

More than 800 nonprofit organizations in the United State participated in a study which evaluated nonprofit board performance and as a result, awarded boards a B- average.

BoardSource, the organization which does this study each year, suggests the results are underwhelming considering board members are often thought of as community leaders and high achievers.

Here are the key findings that produced the B- average:

  1. Boards are generally better at technical tasks, such as financial oversight and compliance, than they are at work related to strategy and community outreach
  2. Board members need to step up the pace when it comes to community outreach, and advocacy.
  3. Board diversity is increasing but gaps persist, and 25 percent of boards remain exclusively white.
  4. The best boards pay attention to culture and dynamics. The secret sauce: have the right people on the board, achieve clarity about roles and responsibilities, and educate and engage board members. Strengthening the culture requires thought, planning, and collective commitment.
  5. Fundraising remains the great weakness of nonprofit boards, producing the lowest grade — 1.95 from CEOs and 1.87 from board chairs. And, it tops the list of board challenges — 60% of CEOs and 58% of board chairs identify it as one of the most important areas for board improvement. (It’s important to note that there isn’t uniform agreement about the board’s role in fundraising. There is agreement, however, that the board needs to responsibly steward the procurement of needed resources to keep the engine of the nonprofit running.)
  6. The political, economic, and demographic forces shaping our society are constantly changing. Our organizations need to change, too. That requires strategy, and those high achievers around the table need to be more engaged in that strategy.

The findings resonate with what we hear from leaders as we work with them on board recruiting, training and strategy.

Finally, the communicator in me thinks that if the high achievers that compose our boards aren’t getting straight A’s, it might be because no one told them they were being graded.

What do you think about the study’s findings? Do the findings line up with your experience?

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