According to a newly released study from the Alliance for Nonprofit Management, a national organization of nonprofit capacity builders, chairs of nonprofit boards in the U.S. are poorly equipped to lead their organizations and have little contact with their communities, constituents, funders and the media.
Of those that did prepare, their primary source of training was through the observation of prior chairs, regardless if they were effective leaders. Very few board chairs received formal training, used the internet for resources, read nonprofit books or magazines, or used libraries to help them learn how to be effective chairs. And many board chairs only served on their boards, in any capacity, for three or less years before assuming the leadership role; often times, they took on the role because others were unwilling.
Based on the complete set of study findings, the research team recommends the following for the nonprofit sector: a) develop an intentional practice of board chair preparation and succession planning; b) provide more accessible resources, as well as training, coaching and mentoring for board chairs; c) develop shared leadership models rather than relying on one individual to fulfill all board leadership roles; d) build leadership capacity for many potential and emerging board leaders; and e) support and expect board chairs to be actively engaged with their nonprofit’s community and constituency, and in leading advocacy efforts.