What difference can nonprofit governance make?

For many charitable foundations and other philanthropic groups, finding the right people to act in governance roles can be struggle. There are a number of obstacles to finding and retaining the most qualified individuals who will help guide a nonprofit in a sustainable direction.

Whether it's aligning with the charity's mission or knowing what donation management software provider will be best to partner with, having well-qualified and forward-thinking leaders at the top of the organization can go a long way to improve future projects and fundraising initiatives. While nonprofit governance members shouldn't be the sole source of guidance for a charitable foundation, they play a crucial role in providing knowledge and expertise that will help inform anything from monthly agendas to multi-year planning.

Canadian charitable organizations
At the same time, a significant number of nonprofit groups have experienced trouble hanging onto qualified leaders and board members, which can lead to larger issues down the road. For instance, the Calgary Chamber of Voluntary Organizations recently released a report highlighting the fact that many members of nonprofit governance don't have long-term plans to stay with the philanthropic group with which they currently work. In fact, of more than 24,000 nonprofit groups in Alberta, Canada, 27 percent indicated there was turnover at the executive level within their organizations during the past two years. Meanwhile, half of current nonprofit governance members – including executive directors – aim to leave their current position within a few years. 

One reason for this is the fact that many individuals involved in nonprofit governance are reaching retirement age and no longer wish to participate in a leadership position. Accordingly, this leaves charitable groups in the difficult position of locating talented and suitable individuals to assume governance positions.

Start making a leadership funnel
One place that nonprofits should look is the emerging group of leaders between 31 and 40 who are aiming to reach a leadership position in nonprofit governance. In fact, 60 percent of this demographic have plans to attain an executive position within their philanthropic organizations. To foster the growth and development of their charitable foundation, current leaders should be working with these emerging leaders.

According to Nonprofit Quarterly, one key factor to consider is that no single individual is more valuable than the mission and values or the organizations, nor is he or she more important than the community the group serves. This means developing leaders must demonstrate the fine balance between working toward and focusing on individual professional goals and the benchmarks established by the nonprofit.

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