Guidelines for Improving the Effectiveness of Boards of Directors of Nonprofit Organizations
Yvonne Harrison, University at Albany
Vic Murray, University of Victoria
Copyright Year: 2014
ISBN 13: 9781942341000
Publisher: Open SUNY
Conditions of Use
As a board member for one organization and the executive director for another, I was pleased to read and review this book. Having attended many meetings about nonprofit organizations and the roles and responsibilities of board members, I see all... read more
As a board member for one organization and the executive director for another, I was pleased to read and review this book. Having attended many meetings about nonprofit organizations and the roles and responsibilities of board members, I see all components are included within this book. Additionally, external resources are provided to give much more depth as the readers may need. There is a table of contents; however, there is neither a glossary nor an index. A glossary, either in each chapter or at the end, would have been useful for terminology. That's something that can be added.
When I took the demo assessment, I wondered if there was a research study on the responses, and I was pleased that they stated the fact in the introduction and conclusion in the book. The only bias that I found was specific references to the areas where the two authors are located—different states have different requirements. The only errors that I found were a few typos and outdated web links.
With so many URLs, there are bound to be problems. I did find some websites that no longer existed, and there were some wording that should be updated to properly reflect the company and the information provided. Some information is included in multiple sections, and if anything changes, the editor would need to search for other content to update. That could be time consuming. State-specific rules and regulations would need to be added to make sure that all of the board member's responsibilities are covered.
The language is very readable, and I appreciate the resources that are provided. The one about the importance of bylaws will be shared with coworkers and board members because many people do not realize that lawsuits may arise when bylaws are not followed. As stated previously, a glossary for terminology would be helpful. That could be a resource that is developed when someone else modifies the book.
The content is consistent, although, at times, it is difficult to read. There needs to be more white space for readability. Also, there is only one figure in the introduction. In several areas, a figure or graphic could help demonstrate how concepts are connected. Tables are included, but those are not as visual.
The chapters are organized and divided neatly; however, there is too much content within each chapter to be used with an active board. The content could likely be used "as is" within a course. There are subheadings such as symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment, but board members would be overwhelmed with so much content. Strategies or game plans for activities and discussions would help implementing new ideas. Once again, a glossary with definitions would help begin discussions with board members. For example, in chapter 2, the roles of board members (decision-maker, advisor, or implementer) would need to be described with examples in order to prompt a discussion about the current state of the board before discussion about the desired state.
Overall, the structure is very well done. There is a nice flow between the chapters. The first chapter outlines the organization of the book and how to use it. The final chapter includes next steps and ideas for moving forward. As stated previously, more figures would help the visual learner better understand the concepts.
The different fonts and font sizes bothered me, somewhat. The tables were awkward to read, and I would have preferred a different format than the banded rows. It is unclear what writing format is being used. Also, the fact that the tables bleed into the margin makes it difficult when printing and binding the document. Some of the spacing is tight, which decreases readability. Personally, I would have eliminated the hyphenation because that also decreases readability.
I found a few typos in the text, but otherwise, there was nothing horribly wrong with the grammar. As mentioned previously, there are a few broken web links, but those would need to be reviewed annually anyway.
There is nothing culturally offensive in this book. In fact, they clearly state that a board should represent the diversity within the community, which many boards do not. In several sections the culture of the organization and board are mentioned, and those are important to remember as board membership changes.
I will be using parts of this book with my fellow board members, and I will create glossary definitions for the items we will use.
This very practical book is more of a practice guide than a textbook, which is quite useful for teaching policy analysis. The authors present the content in clean, accessible language and cover all key aspects of nonprofit board management. I... read more
This very practical book is more of a practice guide than a textbook, which is quite useful for teaching policy analysis. The authors present the content in clean, accessible language and cover all key aspects of nonprofit board management. I will use this book for students studying nonprofit policy and/or conducting program evaluations in nonprofit organizations.
The book is accurate.
This book will have a long shelf life because it presents general principles that endure. It can be supplemented with case studies to keep it fresh.
Clean, clear language.
Well divided with logical sebsections.
Very well organized.
I did not have any problems navigating through the book.
I did not notice any grammatical errors.
This book provides a detailed overview of nonprofit board assessment. Each chapter deals with an important aspect of board effectiveness, and analyzes it in detail. The approach used for analysis is made easier to understand by using an approach... read more
This book provides a detailed overview of nonprofit board assessment. Each chapter deals with an important aspect of board effectiveness, and analyzes it in detail. The approach used for analysis is made easier to understand by using an approach used in medicine; clarify symptoms, diagnose the condition and then formulate the treatment. Each chapter follows the same format and has a table giving additional resources. This book may be helpful to students , as well as to people who are starting, or have started small nonprofits and want to increase effectiveness of the board. The book has a complementary website boardcheck.com. however, even without using it the book provides detailed information. There is some repetition, but by doing that each chapter gives complete information about the topic independently, which may help someone trying to get an answer quickly by reading the specific chapter.
The information is accurate and unbiased. The authors have identified that different countries have different rules, and encouraged use of country specific resources.
The information is relevant, and each chapter has links to country specific resources that are up to date.
The book is written well, in a conversational manner. In each chapter, there are simple questions to ask to clarify the symptoms, and then the possible answers are reviewed before the treatment section. This format is easy to follow, and may also be helpful in a classroom setting. The book favors use of text heavily, more tables, and possibly some flow charts may be helpful.
The easy to follow " health check up" format is clarified in the beginning by the authors, and is followed consistently in each chapter. This is very helpful for the reader who may not have a background in leadership or management.
The book has 11 chapters, with the first chapter describing the authors approach, and the last a short conclusion. Chapters 2 to 10 address a different aspect of the nonprofit board and can be used as a textbook, or as separate chapters for reference. The book deals with nonprofit boards, but the principles can be applied to other scenarios and boards as well, especially the chapters dealing with meetings, vculture and leadership.
The book is well organized, and each chapter leads into the next chapter easily. Some more well designed tables and a few flow charts may improve the organization of each chapter.
The book has no interface issues or distortion. There are some places where the paragraphs are too long, and a separate paragraph would make it easier to read.
There are no grammatical errors in the book.
The book is not culturally insensitive or offensive in any way. The authors have provided general examples relatable to a wide audience, and have provided references applicable to different countries.
This bok would be a good resource for students , and may also be helpful for people who do not have a background in management but want to participate in boards or leadership activities.
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... 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.