BoardSource – Nonprofit Governance Index 2010

BoardSource released the sixth Nonprofit Governance Index last month at its Leadership Forum in San Francisco.  The Index voices the experiences & perspectives  of 1,758 nonprofit leaders across the United States.   BoardSource’s research revealed the fact that many frequently asked questions do not have easy answers. Among those are:

  1. What size should our board be?
  2. How much should board members give?
  3. What does a diverse board look like?
  4. How often should we have board meetings?
  5. What committees should we have?

Participants in the research were selected from BoardSource membership who represent a wide variety and sizes of organizations throughout the United States, the District of Columbia and the Virgin Islands. Responses came from 978 executives and 780 board members in two separate surveys. It is not surprising that when asked to give their boards a letter grade  board members graded themselves higher than did their executive directors.  Though the lowest grade was given for fundraising by both parties.

The 39-page Index covers three major governance practices:

  • Board Roles and Responsibilities
    • Board Performance
    • Strategy
    • Fundraising
    • Oversight
  • Board Structures and Dynamics
    • Board Size and Terms
    • Board-Chief Executive Relations
    • Meetings
    • Committees
  • Board Composition and Recruitment
    • Diversity and Inclusivity
    • Board Recruitment

Each of these practices was measured and the survey results shown in graphs and in “The Numbers & Behind the Numbers” lists.   Appendices provide methodology, profiles of participants and comparative board intelligence.


WASHINGTON, Nov. 10, 2010 /PRNewswire/ — BoardSource, the premier voice in nonprofit governance, released the Nonprofit Governance Index 2010 at the annual BoardSource Leadership Forum in San Francisco.  With funding by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, the Index reports on data collected from surveys of 978 nonprofit chief executives and 780 nonprofit board members and board chairs.

The Index examines data on nonprofit board governance practices, roles and responsibilities, structures and dynamics, and composition and recruitment.  It includes background on methodology, organizational participants, individual respondents, and comparative board intelligence.  It updates the most recent, previous edition of the Index (2007).

“Every time we produce a new Index, we add questions about a particular topic,” said Rosemary Tenuta, director of assessment services for BoardSource.  “This time we focused on diversity and inclusion.  Just as our recent work in this area informed the questions in the Index, the Index will help guide our work going forward.”

Research in the area of diversity and inclusion focused on the three most visible types of nonprofit board diversity:  race/ethnicity, age, and gender.  Findings included data from chief executives on their perception and priority of racial/ethnic diversity on boards.  According to the Index, 71 percent of chief executives believe racial/ethnic diversity on their board has value to their organization’s mission, and 55 percent consider it to be a priority of their organization.  However, just 28 percent of the chief executives surveyed reported being satisfied with the degree of racial/ethnic diversity on their board.

According to the Index, attention paid to governance policies and practices in the nonprofit sector has been on the rise, driven by two recent developments.  The global recession has taken its toll on nonprofits, and the IRS has changed reporting requirements on the Form 990.  In response to this scrutiny, nonprofit boards have increased personal giving and adopted accountability policies.

Nevertheless, the data suggest improvements are still needed.  Nonprofit chief executives gave their boards D+ grades in both fundraising and increasing board diversity, and rated them just a C+ overall.  Nonprofit chief executives and board members agreed that fundraising was the area in which boards most needed to improve.  Strategic planning was second, and an increased focus on strategic priorities – over operational issues – was third.

The impact of the recession is clearly evident.  Over the past two years, 41 percent of responding organizations cut or froze staff salaries.  Twenty-nine percent cut staff, 28 percent dipped into reserves or endowments, and 26 percent downsized their operations or reduced services.

The 2010 Index is the sixth edition produced by BoardSource since 1994.  It is the most comprehensive source available of census data on nonprofit board practices.

BoardSource acknowledges the support of the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, which funded the Nonprofit Governance Index 2010 as a part of a broader project to engage new and diverse board leaders and transform board service.

BoardSource will make the Index available to the public later this month as a free digital download from its Web site,

BoardSource was established in 1988 as the National Center for Nonprofit Boards by Independent Sector and the Association of Governing Boards of Universities & Colleges.  It is dedicated to advancing the public good by building exceptional nonprofit boards and inspiring board service.

SOURCE BoardSource

2 thoughts on “BoardSource – Nonprofit Governance Index 2010

    • Thanks for your feedback, Diana! We’re happy to share information with folks whether you can make it or not. Thanks again for stopping,


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