Nonprofit governance research – food for thought

I just received my copy of Nonprofit Governance, Innovative Perspectives and Approaches, a collection of research on governance edited by Chris Cornforth and William A. Brown. I can see that it is going to take me a bit of time to read through and digest the chapters, but I also can tell that it will be well worth it.

I skipped over chapter 1 for now to jump to David O. Renz and Fredrik O. Andersson’s review of the research literature on governance in chapter 2.

A few things that caught my eye:

  • A definition – “governance is the systems and processes concerned with ensuring the overall direction, control and accountability of an organization.”
  • The need to distinguish between “board” and “governance” – “Governance is a function and a board is a structure. To treat them as synonymous is to invite trouble.” Many others play governing roles, the most familiar being the CEO.
  • There is growing agreement that one size does not fit all. Research is confirming what practitioners have experienced: board roles and board work is affected by many factors, including funding sources, mission, size of organization, life stage, region, and more.

I  am eager to see the end of the belief that there is one set  of “best practices” when it comes to boards and governance. (See Banishing your expectation of board fundraising).

Let’s all agree that governance is extremely complex. Or, as the authors of this chapter note, “the importance of context to our understanding of governance and the work of boards.”


On another note:

It was sweet to see my name listed in  Fundraising Success Magazine as part of the interview with the co-editors of Nonprofit Consulting Playbook. If you are thinking about, new to or even a seasoned consultant, there is something of value for you in this collection from 25 practitioners.

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