Board Practices Pt. III – The Culture and Impact 

September 2022

Every two years, BoardSource, the leading expert on nonprofit board management,  publishes the Leading With Intent report, which documents their recommended best  practices for managing boards. The report dissects survey results from a national  group of hundreds of board members and chief executives to provide a rounded  picture of the way boards function and whether they live up to these recommended  practices. In this blog post, I explore some of the best practices related to "The  Culture" and "The Impact" of boards: their group norms, social interactions and  evaluation measures. Here are two things your organization's board of directors  can do to improve their practices in these areas:  

1. Socialize with other board members for at least 2.5 hours per year outside of  board meetings. 

BoardSource found strong correlations between the amount of time that board  members spend socializing and many positive measures of those board's cultures. For example, the report generally found that the more time members spend  interacting outside of meetings, the more they take collective responsibility for  mistakes and failures, as well as celebrate mutual successes. Ratings for inclusionary practices and participatory cultures also generally increase in line with  the number of hours spent socializing. While the returns begin to diminish after a  certain number of hours, boards that socialized at least 2.5 hours each year  typically reported higher ratings than those that did not. Certainly, meeting this  quota would not overly burden most members and the results clearly show this to  be an essential practice for all boards.  

2. Boards should self-assess their performance at least every two years. 

BoardSource recommends that boards assess their own performance at least  biennially to maintain rigorous standards and accountability. The report found  robust correlations between the frequency of self-assessments and several key  performance measures, particularly "Setting the organization's strategic direction" and "Monitoring impact in the context of the strategic goals or objectives." These  measures were rated as a B- or worse by both chief executives and board chairs,  illustrating the need to make progress in these areas. 

By adopting these simple and straightforward practices, nonprofit boards can  foster more dynamic and responsive cultures, which will energize them to tackle the multifaceted challenges they face. Stay tuned for the fourth and final part of  this series where I explore BoardSource's findings on the diversity, equity and  inclusion practices of nonprofit boards. 


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