The summary is encouraging in that it shows a vast majority of non-profit boards engage in good governance practices. (Although NPQ notes that the results may be slightly skewed given most people on BoardSource’s survey mailing list tend to be people who have contacted them due to interest in good governance.)
The disappointing, though not surprising, finding is that most board and executive leaders are Caucasian and over 40.
“But the lack of inclusion of younger people and people of color on boards and as executive directors seems to point to an unwillingness to join in and make best use of the current societal disruption.
Young people have a different experience base in the political and social uses of networks, which relates to the ability to approach big questions. Additionally, smaller boards can best work for the good of a larger community if those boards have an understanding of how to interact effectively with a larger, more diverse, and unbounded governance system of stakeholders. This cutting edge of governance requires cultural wisdom and the wisdom of younger leadership.”
I was interested to learn that board size has shrunk by 20% between 1994 and 2014 and there is a de-emphasis on people with connections to money. (my emphasis)
The thought that boards must be packed with influential connectors seems to be going the way of the dodo, at least for many organizations. This fits well with the idea that boards should know how to interact effectively with larger systems of governance and support. “Interacting effectively” in these times means that board members are connected enough to the organization and its stakeholder environment to ensure proper communication with stakeholders. Board members should be capable of listening with an educated ear for the tremors and trends in the organization’s environment. A lack of diversity on the board interferes with the capacity to accurately “listen.”
Although NPQ was generally optimistic about it, I had mixed feelings about the news that executive directors have remained in their jobs rather than making a mass exodus as was once feared. My feelings are the same as they were back in 2007/2008 when the concern about mass retirement of executive directors was first expressed.
At that time there weren’t many organizations with succession plans in place or an active efforts to cultivate people to assume those positions and according to the current NPQ article, there still aren’t. While NPQ acknowledges the lack of succession planning is a problem, my focus is more on the cultivation of new leaders.
My fear is that if potential leaders don’t feel like they are being challenged and provided with significant responsibility and decision making opportunities, they may choose to shift their careers elsewhere. The result may be a new generation of leaders with very shallow experience with non-profit work.
I often encourage people to read the full text of a report and that is especially true for this one since NPQ is soliciting articles that make use of the compiled data. If this is a topic which interests you, consider writing about it.