Yesterday, BoardSource released the Leading with Intent: BoardSource Index of Nonprofit Board Practices survey, which will inform a report to be released in early 2020. Leading with Intent is the signature research study that BoardSource has conducted biennially for more than 20 years. We encourage all nonprofit CEOs and board chairs to participate in this survey and to share it with their networks. Why? Because Leading with Intent serves such an important purpose in supporting the nonprofit sector.
Leading with Intent is the only survey to gather information from both chief executives and board chairs on their experiences in nonprofit boardrooms, and it enables BoardSource to (1) track important information on current board composition, practices, and performance, (2) identify important trends and changes in board leadership over time, and (3) use this information to determine where and how we can best support the sector. First launched in 1994 and administered every two to three years, the survey captures responses from a broad range of nonprofits — including charities, foundations, and associations — and missions. This year’s Leading with Intent study will be the tenth iteration of the survey, which has shared data and insights from more than 13,000 CEO and board leaders within the sector across its history.
One of the most important aspects of Leading with Intent is the light it sheds on emerging trends, some of which are encouraging and some disturbing. For example, it was encouraging to learn in 2017 that there’s been a significant expansion of board engagement in advocacy. That report showed that 52 percent of board members are educating policymakers on behalf of their organizations; only 33 percent of board members indicated that they were performing this function in our 2015 study. Conversely, we were disturbed to see in 2017 that 27 percent of all participating organizations reported that their boards include zero people of color. Equally concerning is that the nonprofit sector does not appear to be making progress in this area; in 2015, 25 percent of organizations reported that they had zero people of color on their boards.
Leading with Intent also captures valuable data around the state of current board practices, signaling in some cases a need for additional focus or prioritized action. For example, in 2017, our data showed that only 27 percent of nonprofits have a written succession plan for the chief executive position, only 46 percent of CEOS are “extremely satisfied” with their jobs, and 26 percent of CEOs plan on leaving their organizations in the next three years. This information points to potentially greater exit rates over time. When the Community Foundation of Greater Atlanta found similar succession plan data (30 percent ) among nonprofits in the Atlanta region, it partnered with BoardSource to design a cohort program, “Embrace the Future: Succession Planning for Nonprofit Organizations,” to provide research-based instruction and guidance to its leaders. As a result of this program, 100 percent of participating organizations developed a succession plan policy, an emergency succession plan, and departure-defined succession plan. BoardSource is grateful to the many nonprofit funders and partners that have made research-based investments to support their networks, their grantees, and their communities based on Leading with Intent data.
In addition to providing valuable insights about nonprofit board leadership to the sector as a whole, Leading with Intent also enables BoardSource to use data-driven insights to guide where and how we use our leadership platform to spark and support change. This is especially true with regard to our work in the area of diversity, inclusion, and equity. The current state of diversity on nonprofit boards has inspired BoardSource to make an organizational commitment to supporting and encouraging boards as they work to become more diverse, inclusive, and equitable — and we are paying attention to this issue ourselves. We have vowed to be intentional about our own board and staff diversity, our internal work to support a culture of inclusion and accountability, and our actions to support equity.
BoardSource is excited about today’s launch of the Leading with Intent survey. We invite and encourage all chief executives and board chairs to participate in this important research. Your responses will contribute to insights that can be used to inform the work you and your board are doing to strengthen your own board practices as well as the state of sector-wide leadership and governance. Without strong, reliable trend data provided by you, BoardSource’s sustained investments in important actions around such challenges as diversity, inclusion and equity and succession planning would not be possible. Will you be a partner in knowledge creation with us?
Those who complete the core survey will receive a free PDF of a BoardSource book (there are seven to choose from). If you complete an optional set of questions, we will also enter your name in a raffle for two free registrations (CEO and board chair team) to the 2020 BoardSource Leadership Forum. Lodging will be provided; transportation is not included.