Guidelines for Improving the Effectiveness of Boards of Directors of Nonprofit Organizations
Yvonne Harrison, University at Albany
Vic Murray, University of Victoria
Pub Date: 2014
ISBN 13: 978-1-9423410-0-0
Publisher: Open SUNY
Conditions of Use
The textbook does a nice job of describing the basic roles and responsibilities of a board of directors for nonprofit organizations. All of the basic read more
The textbook does a nice job of describing the basic roles and responsibilities of a board of directors for nonprofit organizations. All of the basic roles and responsibilities of most boards are discussed. The authors outline a conceptual framework that illustrates how contextual factors influence the governance process and organization’s effectiveness. It is also helpful at the end of each chapter there are additional resources outlined for each topic. However, this text fails in outlining the three basic duties of board members. While these duties are not specific, and do not align with a specific topic, such as planning or fundraising, it is important that board members understand their duty of care, duty of obedience and duty of loyalty. The authors do outline the limitations of this textbook, but it would still be helpful to briefly describe the duties of board members.
The information in the textbook is accurate. I did not note any bias and the information appears to be current and error-free.
The understanding by board of directors of their roles and responsibilities is vitally important to the success and effectives of an organization. This textbook is certainly relevant and the information is current. I will emphasize that this textbook is basic and does not (although maybe not intended to) encourage board members to “think outside the box”. I think being entrepreneurial in the nonprofit sector is more and more important and updates should include the board’s role in learning entrepreneurial initiatives.
The information in the textbook is clear, understandable, and describes well any content unique to the nonprofit sector.
The information in the text is consistent. The authors clearly explain that the information is outlined in a systems, diagnosis, and treatment format and this is done consistently throughout the text. One matter of concern regarding consistency is the beginning of each chapter. The best start to chapters is when the authors first describe the symptoms, provide a checklist of items to consider and then summarize by themes the items. This is not done in each chapter and those chapters that do, are a bit more thorough.
The modularity of the textbook is great. Each chapter and even sections within chapters can be understood in smaller reading sections.
The organization, structure and flow of this textbook and logical and clear. Each chapter follows in a consistent order. The symptoms, diagnosis and treatment framework was followed for each topic, making the organization and flow easy for the reader.
Visually the book was appealing. The imagines and charts were easy to read. In a few places a space could be inserted between image and start of the content. Overall, well done.
I did not notice any grammatical errors.
The textbook is extremely relevant. The work of nonprofit organizations is vitally important to the health and well-being of communities and the governance of organizations sets the stage for the effectiveness of the organization. Many community members are asked to sit on boards without a clear understanding of what they are agreeing to do. In addition, I also don’t necessarily think executive directors know all the work of board members should be doing. Developing resources and various frameworks to assist board chairs and executive directors in developing their board members is beneficial. This textbook provides a framework that is parallel to health checkups for individuals. This provides a method for doing a health checkup for the board of directors which directly relates to the mission, strategic planning and financial well-being of organizations.
The purpose of this book is to help a board of director improve their performance. I support of this textbook, an online board self-assessment tool can be found at www.boardcheckup.com. This took is easily accessible and straight forward to complete. It seems that to be most effective having a board of directors complete the survey and use this textbook to understand the symptoms, diagnosis problems, and most importantly treat the problems of a board of directors.
Table of Contents
- Chapter 1: Introduction
- Chapter 2: The Board’s Role and Responsibilities
- Chapter 3: The Board’s Role in Planning
- Chapter 4: The Board’s Role in Performance Assessment
- Chapter 5: The Board’s Role in Fundraising
- Chapter 6: The Board’s Structure and Operating Procedures
- Chapter 7: Effective Board Meetings
- Chapter 8: The Composition and Development of the Board
- Chapter 9: The Informal Culture of the Board
- Chapter 10: Leadership on the Board
- Chapter 11: Conclusion
About the Book
The purpose of this book is to help boards of directors of nonprofit organizations improve their performance after completing the online board self-assessment tool found at www.boardcheckup.com. However, it can also be used as a stand-alone resource for any board seeking to enhance its effectiveness in that it also contains the diagnostic questions on which the online tool is based.
The approach taken here is similar to that which lies behind health checkups for individuals. Doctors usually begin by asking us to review a lengthy list of many possible health issues and we check those about which we have concerns. The doctor and patient then focus their discussions on these issues. The typical process proceeds through the following three stages:
- Understanding the symptoms. The doctor and patient begin by trying to define the issues more clearly.
- Diagnosis. Effort is made to understand the causes of the problems through tests and further examination.
- Treatment. Once the problem has been properly diagnosed, a treatment program to remedy it is begun.
While the Board Check-Up survey on which this book is based does not pretend to be as scientifically rigorous as a medical examination, it is based on the same logic. It begins by having those who belong to, or relate to, boards provide their perceptions of how well the board is working by guiding them through a list of potential "health issues”, i.e. statements of possible problems, issues or challenges that boards might encounter in their work. These statements have been derived from comments made by those who serve on boards or interact with them as well as from the work of researchers and consultants who have studied boards over the past 30 years. Once issues (symptoms) have been identified, they become the focal point for discussions that explore how serious they are, what might be causing them (diagnosis) and what can be done to resolve them (treatment).
As noted above, this book is intended to help boards assess performance and make decisions to improve the effectiveness of the governance process. Each chapter deals with one of the nine dimensions of governance effectiveness. It starts with the items dealing with that dimension on the Board Performance Self-Assessment Questionnaire. These items represent the symptoms that indicate possible issues, problems or challenges faced by the board. This is followed by a discussion of possible reasons that such symptoms might exist (diagnosis) The third part of each chapter looks at what might be done to alleviate the symptoms once a diagnosis is made (treatment). Included in this final part of the chapter are references to websites, books and articles that provide additional advice and assistance on how to deal with the issues raised.
About the Contributors
Yvonne Harrison is Assistant Professor in the Department of Public Administration and Policy in Rockefeller College of Public Affairs and Policy, University at Albany, SUNY. Prior to joining the Rockefeller College faculty, Yvonne was Assistant Professor in the Center for Nonprofit and Social Enterprise Management at Seattle University, Washington where she conducted nonprofit leadership research and taught courses in nonprofit governance and information management in nonprofit and government organizations.
Dr. Harrison has expertise in the governance and leadership of nonprofit organizations and the adoption and impact of information and communications technology (ICT) in nonprofit and voluntary sector organizations. Her current research examines questions about the effectiveness of nonprofit governing boards and the impact of online board performance self-assessment on nonprofit governance and organizational effectiveness. Funding for this research comes from the following sources:
- Institute for Nonprofit Studies, Mount Royal University in Calgary, Alberta, Canada
- University at Albany Faculty Research Award Programs (A and B)
- Rockefeller College of Public Affairs and Policy, University at Albany, SUNY
Currently, she is a member of the Association for Research on Nonprofit Organizations and Voluntary Action (ARNOVA) and Association for Nonprofit and Social Economy Research of Canada (ANSER).
In 2002, Dr. Harrison was awarded (with John Langford), the J. E. Hodgetts Award for Best Article in Canadian Public Administration (CPA). She is the author of a number of other peer reviewed journal articles, book chapters, research reports, and publications. She holds a Bachelor of Science in Nursing, a Master of Public Administration and PhD in Public Administration from the University of Victoria, British Columbia, Canada.
Vic Murray is currently Adjunct Professor in the School of Public Administration at the University of Victoria. From 1983 to 1995, he was director of the program in voluntary sector management in the Schulich School of Business at York University, Toronto.
Dr. Murray specializes in the study of voluntary sector organizations of all types with particular emphasis on the areas of board governance, strategic planning, inter-organizational collaboration, and the assessment of organizational effectiveness. He is also an active consultant and volunteer in these areas.
As Director of the Nonprofit Leadership and Management Program at York University he developed Canada’s first certificate and master’s level programs in that field. He is the author of many books, articles and papers in the fields of organizational behavior and nonprofit management. His most recent book is The Management of Nonprofit and Charitable Organizations in Canada (LexisNexis, 2009).
Currently, he is a member of the Advisory Board for the journal Nonprofit Management and Leadership, and active in the Association for Research on Nonprofit Organizations and Voluntary Action (ARNOVA). In 2002 he was awarded ARNOVA’s Distinguished Lifetime Achievement Award. In 1995 the Canadian Centre for Philanthropy awarded him the Alan Arlett medal for distinguished contributions to philanthropy research.
In 2005, he helped to found the Association for Nonprofit and Social Economy Research of Canada and, in 2013, was awarded its Distinguished Service Award.
Dr. Murray’s current research interest is a longitudinal study of the impact of the self-assessment of governance performance in nonprofit organizations (see www.boardcheckup.com) with Dr. Yvonne Harrison of the State University of New York at Albany.