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Nonprofit Boards That Work: The End of One-Size-Fits-All Governance 1st Edition

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ISBN-13: 978-0471354321
ISBN-10: 0471354325
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Editorial Reviews


"She offers shared wisdom and commonsense advice that provides useful information about the basics of board work." (Nonprofit & Voluntary Sector Quarterly, May 2003)

From the Inside Flap

Most people have an instinctive grasp of the role of the nonprofit board, a strong belief that it is "in charge" and keeping an eye on things. Beyond that basic insight, a deeper comprehension of the role of the board and the shape of its work loses focus, and the details become harder to express. That lack of focus is often as absent in the boardroom as it is among the general public.

Unlike their for-profit counterparts, a nonprofit board lacks indicators, such as a bottom line and share value, that would give the board clear direction about its major tasks and demonstrate how best to organize itself to get these tasks accomplished. Armed with goodwill and dedicated to serving the best interests of an organization, boards either make it up as they go along, hoping that common sense and good intentions will see them through, or follow a set of prescriptions for good governance that fail to acknowledge what is unique about their particular organizations. Neither strategy succeeds in making a board the asset it could be and should be in the life of the organization.

Nonprofit Boards That Work shifts the focus, encouraging boards to look first at the particulars of the organization before determining the best approaches to effective governance. It asks a board to define its role and derive its value from understanding what is specific and unique about the organization and then to align itself and its work in ways that make it an asset in the organization?s life.

Nonprofit Boards That Work addresses issues of role definition, key responsibilities, working culture, structure, and leadership that boards must tackle if they are to play a meaningful part in helping a nonprofit to achieve success. Here is practical advice and effective yet flexible strategies that accommodate the many variables that shape a board?s real work?organizational size, stage of development, the varying levels of skill and commitment encompassed within the board, the talent of the executive director, the quality of leadership, and the limits of time. Throughout the book, boards are encouraged to shed irrelevant formulas and mobilize their goodwill and latent abilities to become boards that work.


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 162 pages
  • Publisher: Wiley; 1st edition (January 15, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0471354325
  • ISBN-13: 978-0471354321
  • Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 0.7 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #492,659 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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30 of 30 people found the following review helpful By Nathan Garber on August 4, 2002
Format: Hardcover
Since the publication of John Carver's "Boards that Make a Difference" in 1990, much of the literature about nonprofit boards has been directed to supporting or debunking Carver's presentation of a universal governance model. The subtitle of Maureen Robinson's recent book (the end of one-size-fits-all governance) advises the reader of this author's point of view that whatever their similarities, nonprofits differ dramatically in terms of scale and structure, organizational history and cultural traditions. "A million nonprofits will arrive at almost as many variations in strategies for achieving good governance" she writes. "Each Board must fit its performance to the needs of the organization it serves and be willing to change as the organization changes."
Particularly useful in this context is Robinson's differentiation of the board's role into three "dimensions:" legal, functional, and symbolic. The legal dimension represents the board's fiduciary role and its stewardship duties. The functional dimension is the board's role in managing and delivering the organization's programs and services. The third dimension is the board's symbolic role as an exemplar of the values and culture of the organization.
Thankfully, the author also sets out to correct any misapprehensions that governing a nonprofit organization is easy. While the theory of governance may be simple to grasp, implementation is difficult no matter what the size of the organization. Although the board is referred to as a unit, she explains, it is actually a collection of individuals with their own unique reasons for being on the board and their own individual strengths and limitations. Quoting Cyril Houle, she concludes that "a good board is a victory, not a gift.
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By Scott Ferguson on September 13, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is not a 'how-to' book with myriad steps and checklists. It trusts the reader's judgment. It is a liberating work, motivating and challenging the reader to make Boards useful, not admonishing the reader to do this or that. It is clear that the author has alot of experience with Boards, and doesn't feel it is necessary to develop fancy models and frameworks for Board operation. She keeps it simple, and high level. A copy is being purchased for every new member of our Board.
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4 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Brian D. Mcmahon on September 21, 2002
Format: Hardcover
This is a very practical, common-sense book. It is very obvious that the author has a lot of experience with what works (and doesn't work!) in the real world. If you serve on a nonprofit board, or are considering doing so, I very strongly urge you to read it.
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