CEOs report dissatisfaction with boards

Nonprofit CEOs lack confidence in their board members’ ability in a few key areas, a new study says.

Among midsize nonprofits, executive directors give trustees low marks for fundraising and monitoring board performance, with more than six in 10 percent of those surveyed rating board-member performance as “fair” or “poor” in both areas, says the study by the Urban Institute.

Over one in four nonprofit leaders give their boards the same low ratings in their duties of evaluating CEOs, planning and monitoring programs, dealing with the community, and educating the public about their organization.

The only area in which board members excel is in respecting board-staff boundaries, with more than half the CEOs rating their boards as “excellent.”

But fewer than half, 48 percent, judged their boards’ performance to be “excellent” in terms of financial oversight.

The level of perceived engagement among board members in a given role is the most influential factor in executive director’s ratings, the study says.

Boards that did not report recruiting difficulties and those that emphasized financial and business skills in their recruiting efforts, tend to receive higher ratings, as do those that looked for members who were willing to commit their time.

Those that spread influence more evenly across their board members, instead of allowing the chair or CEO exclusive control of board agendas, also fare better.

The study is based on 2005 data from 1,862 organizations with annual expenses between $500,000 and $5 million.

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