Would you give your board an A plus in performance? If yes, then you are in the minority according to Leading with Intent: A National Index of Nonprofit Board Practices, a report that indicates both nonprofit executives and board chairs consider their board performance only slightly above average, with an overall grade of B minus. Survey respondents from across the country rated their boards in various areas of responsibilities with average grades ranging from an A minus in mission to a C in fundraising.
The study, conducted by BoardSource, found that boards excel at tasks of a technical nature, such as compliance and fiscal oversight, while lagging in community outreach and acting as an “ambassador” for the organization. Other areas of improvement noted:
- Diversity. Inclusiveness in board composition – not as a numbers issue but as a valid representation of people involved in the organization – is an area in need of attention with 35 percent of the CEOs surveyed giving their board a B or above in this area.
- Showing up. Board attendance is declining, with less than half (37 percent) of boards surveyed reporting 90 percent or better attendance in 2014.
- Raising money. While board giving is up, fundraising is a sensitive issue. Less than ¼ of boards reported even being comfortable with providing donor contact information, and just 12 percent were comfortable meeting donors face to face.
- Information and strategy. 35% of the boards received a C or below in the area of strategic planning.
This was a national study, but board report cards are also a great tool at the organizational level. These kind of self-evaluations help gauge board members’ perceptions of their own levels of knowledge and confidence, as well as measure overall board performance. This information assists the board in identifying and discussing areas of strengths and limitations and prioritizing governance actions for the upcoming year.
Report Citation: BoardSource, Leading with Intent: A National Index of Nonprofit Board Practices (Washington, D.C.: BoardSource, 2015)