“Grades are nothing but numbers given out and they define nothing of whom you are.”

Sergio Piaggio, 16 year old student

Seems to be a lot of buzz about US nonprofit boards getting a B- grade as reported by BoardSource in its 2014 governance index. School told us the numeric underpinnings of that grade; not so in this report. I wonder what a B- really means.  Is it good?  Bordering on average but still above average?

 I think a B- is pretty good but leaves room for improvement and, of course, you want to have a high-performing board. So what can you learn from the report that can help you achieve that?

Having the right board members is a major determinant of board performance*. So I looked a little deeper into what the report had to say about board composition.

I found it interesting that 73% of chief executives agreed that they have the right board members. Given normal transitions, term limits, and new challenges that affect the kind of board you need, this sounds encouraging to me. On the other hand, 80% of board members are white and only 69% of executives are dissatisfied with the ethnic make-up of their boards. Yikes! We know that diversity contributes to innovation and creativity etc. etc. I’m confused and disappointed.

Last time, I noted that it is getting harder and harder to recruit board members. Are executives burning out on this effort?

The report also tells us how executives ranked the importance of key board member criteria. Here are the results listed in order with the most important criteria on the top:

  1. Passion for the mission
  2. Community connections
  3. Skill set
  4. Occupation/profession
  5. Demographics
  6. Fundraising ability and access
  7. Industry knowledge

What is your take on this? I am really interested in hearing from you! Does this information resonate with you? How would you explain the seemingly contradictory findings?

*Brown et. al. “Determinants of Board Performance in Nonprofit Organizations,” working paper. Bush School of Government and Public Service, Texas A&M University.