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ERIC Number: ED559278
Record Type: Non-Journal
Publication Date: 2014-May
Pages: 14
Abstractor: ERIC
Reference Count: N/A
Strive for the Best: Building and Maintaining an Excellent Board
Griswold, John S.; Jarvis, William F.
Commonfund Institute
The nature of trusteeship has changed markedly in the new century. In addition to the mission-related and financial issues with which fiduciaries have always dealt, trustees of nonprofit organizations are now regularly required to make decisions in response to media scrutiny, challenges from regulators, demands from stakeholders and constituents, the requirements of increasingly complex investment strategies, the priorities of donors, and reputational threats to board members and the organizations they serve. In contrast with the past, boards are being held to an ever-higher standard in which "getting by," "muddling through" or "preserving the status quo" no longer suffice. Board seats are no longer viewed as honorary rewards for service or financial contributions, nor can the trustee's oversight role be viewed as one of passive observation. How well a board functions determines, in large measure, the fortunes of the organization it governs. Mediocre or middling performance may enable an organization to survive, but rarely to thrive, while weak or dysfunctional boards may jeopardize their organization's very existence. Governance may have been a subject of less prominence in the past, but the current era is one in which regulators, the media, whistleblowers and dissatisfied constituents are quick to bring potentially harmful issues into sharp focus, scrutinizing both activity and inactivity. Only a high level of board performance can create and sustain the energizing, inspiring and motivating environment in which the organization and its constituencies can excel. This paper asserts that all boards should, in general, aspire to a place in this upper tier of governing bodies. But what does excellence mean for a nonprofit board, and how is it measured? More importantly, how does a board map a path to that goal? This paper serves as a guide for trustees and boards that aspire to excel, with particular emphasis on the board's fiduciary role. It identifies the practices and policies of excellent boards and the steps that nonprofits can take to put them into practice. While reviewing the functions of a board and its members, the paper also shows what boards look like when they are at the top of their game. A bibliography is included.
Commonfund Institute. 15 Old Danbury Road, Wilton, CT 06897. Tel: 203-563-5000; Tel: 888-823-6246; Web site:
Publication Type: Reports - Descriptive
Education Level: Higher Education; Postsecondary Education
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: Commonfund Institute