Monday, October 24, 2016

Essential read: Board chair research finds improvements needed

In August, the Alliance for Nonprofit Management released the "the largest study to date about nonprofit board chairs in the United States: Voices of Nonprofit Board Chairs." (press release)

The Alliance queried 635 board chairs across the country on several topics including preparation for their role as chair, their role on the board as one among many members, and their role in the organization relative to the executive director.   The findings are incredibly important to DC given the number of and role played by nonprofit organizations in the local arena.   What did the Alliance find?   Read the short version (Voices of Board Chairs: A National Study on the Perspectives of Nonprofit Board Chairs on Medium) or the longer one, again, from the press release:

Although nonprofit board chairs are expected to provide significant leadership to their boards and their organizations, this study finds that only half prepared for their critical leadership role. Of those that did prepare, their primary source of training was through the observation of prior chairs, regardless if they were effective leaders. Very few board chairs received formal training, used the internet for resources, read nonprofit books or magazines, or used libraries to help them learn how to be effective chairs. And many board chairs only served on their boards, in any capacity, for three or less years before assuming the leadership role; often times, they took on the role because others were unwilling.

There is increasing focus on nonprofit accountability to the communities and constituents they serve; however, other findings reveal that board chairs have little contact with the community and constituents, media, funders or other community stakeholders.

Based on the results, the study researchers has made several recommendations:

a) develop an intentional practice of board chair preparation and succession planning; b) provide more accessible resources, as well as training, coaching and mentoring for board chairs; c) develop shared leadership models rather than relying on one individual to fulfill all board leadership roles; d) build leadership capacity for many potential and emerging board leaders; and e) support and expect board chairs to be actively engaged with their nonprofit’s community and constituency, and in leading advocacy efforts.

How does your nonprofit board chair stack up?   Has the chair been trained?   Is there a leadership path on the board?   Do board members get to have growing responsibility the longer they serve?   Is there a feedback loop in place?

Read the full report (PDF).

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