“Data is not information, information is not knowledge, knowledge is not understanding, understanding is not wisdom.”    Clifford Stoll

BoardSource has released the findings from its 2014 governance survey.  846 chief executives and 246 board chairs responded.  There is a lot to read and digest and I am reading and thinking – reading and thinking.  Here is a “quick take” on some of the findings. (I encourage you to get and read the free report-link below.)

Last week I spoke to a diverse group of nonprofit executives and board members about how to attract the right board members. Boardsource’s survey found that, not surprisingly, it is getting harder to do that.

  • On average, boards are recruiting 3 board members.
  • 58% of executives find it is difficult to find people (up from 44% in 2012).

 I get asked a lot about ideal board size. They found:

  • 80% of boards have fewer than 20 members.
  • The average board size is 15.3.  (It was 19 in 1994 and has been declining since.)
  • The most common board member term is 2 consecutive 3-year terms.

A challenge we know many executives deal with is the turnover of the board chair year-to-year.

  • 38% of board chairs have one year terms, 31% two year terms.
  • 71% of board chairs have term limits.
  • 35% serve two terms. (This did not change from their 2012 report.)

If I am understanding the data as presented, that means that only 13% of the board chairs with one year terms serve two terms (i.e., two years) and only 11% of those with two year terms stay on for a second term.

Does it reassure you to learn this information about the average board? Frankly, I would prefer to know what  some innovative outlier boards are experimenting with! Which brings me to a key point. We don’t know how this information relates to what is effective for boards. Indeed, it is hard to even define what effectiveness is for boards as research has shown it to be in the eye of the beholder (i.e., staff, volunteers, board members, and other stakeholders have different views of board effectiveness.)

While this snapshot of US nonprofit boards provides some interesting data, I intend to dig deeper into the report hoping to find some meaningful information to share with you. I encourage you to check this out http://leadingwithintent.org/ for yourself.  I want to know your take on it.  Please comment and/or share that here!