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Bridgestar Survey on Governance Practices

22 November 2004 at 12:11 pm
Staff Reporter
US Online Leadership NFP Bridgestar has surveyed charity board members and Executive Directors to learn about their experiences serving on, or reporting to, boards of directors - with results that will resonate with Australia.

Staff Reporter | 22 November 2004 at 12:11 pm


Bridgestar Survey on Governance Practices
22 November 2004 at 12:11 pm

The US Online Leadership Not For Profit Bridgestar has surveyed charity board members and Executive Directors to learn about their experiences serving on, or reporting to, boards of directors with results that will resonate with the Australian sector.

In particular the survey looked at the recruiting process for Not for Profit boards.

Bridgestar says its findings paint a compelling picture of common governance practices for organisations with a range of budgets and service models.

One of the key findings is that boards continue to rely primarily upon the networks of their members to recruit new members.

Bridgestar says that while this is hardly a surprise to anyone who has worked in the sector, it raises an important strategic question as boards are being called upon to do more than ever.

They need deeper and broader expertise to address key strategic and operational challenges facing their organisation, and better ways to interpret and communicate about their performance.

Bridgestar says if the majority of Not for Profit board members continue to come through the networks of current members, how well positioned will they be to fill in the gaps – real or perceived – in innovation and responsiveness?

In other words, are they doing all they can to ensure that the sector remains healthy, productive and well regarded?

Bridgestar conducted the online survey of 457 board members and executive directors in September 2004 and asked the following questions:

– How often do positions turn over – and how long do they stay open?
– Where do boards find new members?
– What skills are being sought?
– What new methods might be used to find members?
– How satisfied are board members and Executive Directors with their boards’ performance?

Three-quarters of respondents had a business or strategic plan and 78% said their board recruiting strategy was tied to their plan. The majority of boards have organised themselves into committees and working groups. These findings don’t seem to change significantly based on organisation size.

Nearly half of respondents had four or more board members depart in the last two years. Resignations slightly led expiration of term as the cause for departure. Smaller organisations were more likely than larger organisations to lose members due to resignations vs. term limits.

A quarter of organisations filled board openings in advance of member departures and another quarter filled them within three months of departure. Just 4% had openings for longer than a year.

Of the respondents who reported that their recruiting was tied to a strategic plan, 93% said that their recruiting was based on personal networks of board members, and 51% said that this was the most effective recruiting method

Executive directors (75%) and nominating committees (64%) were the other leading sources for board recruitment, and were among the top three most effective recruiting methods.

Approximately one third of respondents said that they would consider employing online methods in the future.

Fund raising—both individual and foundation—led the list of desired board skills, closely followed by program and financial experience.

On questions relating to diversity, defined either by race/ethnicity or skill sets, 72% of Executive Directors and 75% of board members believe that their boards are appropriately diverse. Seven percent of board members and 9 percent of Executive Directors strongly believe that their boards are appropriately diverse.

More than two thirds (61%) of overall respondents rate their board performance highly. Board members are also slightly more likely to report a high degree of personal satisfaction with their board experience.


If you would like an electronic copy of the survey results in PDF format just send us an email with the words Bridgestar Governance Survey in the subject line to

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