The Journal Gazette
Sunday, April 08, 2018 1:00 am

Nonprofit boards vital to success of group: Study

LISA GREEN | The Journal Gazette

Successful nonprofits need long-term goals, in-depth strategic plans and a steady revenue stream. No surprises in that.

Without strong board leadership, those are harder to achieve and maintain.

The 2018 Nonprofit Leadership Impact Study released this month sheds light on some of the challenges organizations face. The U.S. has more then 1.8 million nonprofits, according to the study's executive summary. 

Along with goals and strategic plans, nonprofit leaders should shift their focus toward donor loyalty – retaining “quality, committed donors versus having a high quantity of donors,” NonProfit PRO said in its summary. Committed donors “will continue to give high-value gifts over a lifetime.

“Nonprofits also need to be more selective on who they put on their board of directors and make sure these individuals are best fit for the job,” the summary said. Taking advantage of technology is also critical.

The study was the effort of NonProfit PRO, NAPCO Research and MobileCause, which helps nonprofits lower the cost of fundraising.

NonProfit PRO, which has a magazine, website and daily e-newsletter, called its study a one-of-a-kind look at nonprofit leadership. A survey about leadership strategies was sent in December to its audience to discover how nonprofit leadership teams are managing daily business operations. About 480 surveys were completed. Twenty-six percent of respondents work in human service nonprofits.

Representatives from arts, culture and humanities represented 13 percent and those in education nonprofits represented another 13 percent. Smaller responses came from areas including religion/faith-based – 7 percent; and youth development – 5 percent.

Based on survey results, 72 percent of nonprofits struggle with making sure board members are actively fundraising and/or keeping them motivated to do so.

The study went on to suggest that organizations consider background checks on potential board members to discover their previous fundraising success.

The survey also showed 53 percent of nonprofits struggle with finding “quality board members who are passionate about the nonprofit's cause” and 52 percent struggle with establishing clear roles and expectations for each board member.

“Being in charge of a nonprofit's day-to-day operations is no easy feat,” the study said. “Whether you are president, CEO, chief development officer or even a board member, being a part of a successful operation takes dedication, patience, perseverance, teamwork and – quite often in the nonprofit space – resilience.”

Success, though, can be a relative term, the study noted. But finances in every aspect seemed to be part of the core of challenges.

Sixty-two percent of respondents cited lack of resources as a challenge and 45 percent cited donor acquisition. Staff turnover was noted by 37 percent of respondents. Just 25 percent of respondents, however, said they instituted staff management processes for better project management for when turnover occurs.

To share a thought, a favorite quote or other wisdom about leadership, email Lisa Green at Lead On also appears online as a blog at

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