The board is the lifeblood of a nonprofit organization, tasked with responsibilities such as:
- Hiring and evaluating executives
- Spearheading fundraising efforts
- Mitigating risk through compliance oversight and good governance
- Ensuring the long-term sustainability of the organization
- Shaping the strategic direction of the organization and mission fulfillment
When a board suffers from low engagement, it puts the entire organization in jeopardy.
Maximizing Board Engagement & Effectiveness
A 2013 survey conducted by StreamLink Software and Axelson Center for Nonprofit Management uncovers the motivations and drivers of board members. The goal of the nationwide survey was to understand perspectives on board members’ organizational engagement.
A summary of findings is published in StreamLink Software’s new report, “Maximizing Board Engagement & Effectiveness.” The report outlines the symptoms (and underlying causes) of disengaged board members, debunks myths, and shares steps leadership can take to increase engagement and future-proof nonprofit boards.
Key Findings on Nonprofit Board Engagement
Many organizations struggle to increase board engagement. According to survey results, one in four board members aren’t fully engaged with the mission of the organization. Only 66% of respondents decided to serve on a board for the mission and only 73% of respondents continue to serve for the mission.
However, results suggest that low board engagement is not the result of burnout or unrealistic expectations. On the contrary, more than 8 out of 10 board members think board attendance and board length expectations are reasonable.
Instead, low engagement appears to stem from the following challenges:
- Misalignment of mission: Does everyone share the same goal?
- Passively managed expectations: Are objectives clear, acted upon and evolving?
- Communication silos: Is transparency expected and engagement easy?
- Unplugged talent: Is full potential being realized?
In the report, StreamLink Software analyzes survey data on these board engagement challenges and offers strategies to overcome them.
Achieving Nonprofit Board Potential
In addition to suffering low engagement, nonprofit boards fail to operate at their full potential. Survey results estimate that boards operate 30% below capacity, and that approximately half of nonprofit boards perpetuate disorganized and inefficient communication practices.
Of board members surveyed, 30% believe their talents are not being used as effectively as possible; similarly, 30% are dissatisfied with their contributions as board members.
Approximately half of respondents agree that board resources are accessible, logically organized and easy to use (46.8%), and that information necessary for meetings is delivered in a timely manner (53.1%). More than half of board members (56.8%) believe that their board is not structured for maximum effectiveness.
Low board engagement threatens the sustainability of the organization and viability of the mission. Learn to identify the symptoms of a disengaged board, better understand its causes, and future-proof your board by better engaging today’s board, effectively recruiting tomorrow’s board and leveraging technology for maximum impact.
Is your nonprofit board engaged? Why or why not? Share your experiences in the comments below.