In fall 2014, Stanford Graduate School of Business, in collaboration with BoardSource and GuideStar, surveyed 924 directors of nonprofit organizations about the composition, structure, and practices of their boards. To improve governance and board-level performance, the authors recommend that nonprofits incorporate the following:
1. Ensure your organization’s mission is focused and its skills and resources are well-aligned with it.
2. Ensure your mission is understood and embraced by the board, management, and other key stakeholders.
3. Establish explicit goals and strategies directly tied to achieving your mission.
4. Develop rigorous performance metrics that reflect those goals and strategies.
5. Hold the executive director accountable for meeting those performance metrics and evaluate his or her performance with a sound, objective process.
6. Compose your board with individuals with the skills, resources, generosity, diversity, and dedication that address the needs of the organization. This includes ensuring that there is a small group of committed and cohesive leaders.
7. Define explicitly the roles and responsibilities of board members to best leverage their leadership, time, and resources.
8. Establish well-defined board, committee, and ad hoc processes that reflect your organization’s needs and context and ensure optimal handling of key decisions and responsibilities.
9. Regularly review and assess each board member’s leadership contributions as well as the board’s overall performance. This includes ensuring that board members view their time as well spent.