For the past nine years, BoardSource has published a yearly report called Leading with Intent.

The report contains information from leader surveys on nonprofit board composition, practices, performance, and culture. The 2017 Leading with Intent report was developed with feedback from 1,759 individual responses: 1,378 from chief executives and 381 from board chairs.

Key findings:

  1. Boards are no more diverse than they were two years ago and current recruitment priorities indicate this is unlikely to change.

Despite reporting high levels of dissatisfaction with current board demographics — particularly racial and ethnic diversity — boards are not prioritizing demographics in their recruitment practices. Nearly a fifth of all chief executives report they are not prioritizing demographics in their board recruitment strategy, despite being dissatisfied with their board’s racial and ethnic diversity.

  1. Boards are starting to embrace their roles as advocates for their missions, but stronger leadership is still needed.

More than half of all boards are actively working in concert with staff leadership to educate policymakers on behalf of their organization, but most organizations do not have formal policies around advocacy. Both chief executives and board chairs cite board member ambassadorship as a top three area for board improvement.

  1. Strong understanding of programs is linked to stronger engagement, strategy, and external leadership — including fundraising.

The board’s knowledge of the organization’s programs relates to board performance in several key areas: strategic thinking and planning, commitment and engagement, and fundraising and community outreach. This points to the importance of cultivating a deep understanding of the organization’s programs and operating environment through ongoing board education.

  1. Boards that assess their performance regularly perform better on core responsibilities.

Boards that assess themselves get higher grades across all areas of board performance. Emphasizing the importance of regular board assessment, boards that assessed their performance more recently (within the past two years) report higher performance scores than those that assessed less recently.

  1. Chief executives and board chairs agree that the board has an impact on organizational performance, and that two particular board characteristics matter most: the board’s understanding of its roles and responsibilities, and the board’s ability to work as a collaborative team toward shared goals.

For both chief executives and board chairs, these two characteristics strongly correlate to their perceptions of the board’s overall impact on organizational performance. While there is no evidence that this relationship is causal, it does document a perceived connection between board performance and organizational performance, and may point to high-leverage opportunities for board development and growth.

Source: BoardSource, Leading with Intent: 2017 National Index of Nonprofit Board Practices (Washington, D.C.: BoardSource, 2017).  

You can access the full report here.

As the Director of Client Services and a Coach here at Ministry Ventures, I have the privilege of coming alongside ministry leaders across the country and internationally. We seek to encourage and train according to nonprofit best practices. Our coaching programs are centered around best practices in five areas: Ministry Model, Board Development, Fundraising, Administration, and Prayer Culture.

I consistently hear from leaders that their board has never engaged in an evaluation. As noted in key finding number four of the report: “boards that assess their performance regularly perform better on core responsibilities.”

Has your board conducted an evaluation in the past two years? If not, it’s time.

If you need direction on this, let’s chat!

Schedule a free consultation to discuss your Board training needs.

Emily Fitchpatrick

Director of Client Services & Coach
MinistryVentures.org