Governing the Nonprofit Organization

By Michela M. Perrone, Ph.D.

Boards of Directors are groups of people, and they experience all of the struggles and have all of the needs that are typical of groups. They need structures and systems. They need skillful facilitation of meetings. They need clarity of decision-making procedures and rules. They also need an occasional therapy session.

The successful nonprofit organization is one that both understands, and manages, the needs of the board. The effectiveness of the board, and the partnership between the board and the chief executive officer, are essential to the organization’s ability to successfully accomplish its mission.

When the board is not effective, the organization struggles and falters in accomplishing its mission. The CEO and staff spend inordinate amounts of time focused on “repairing” the board. Their energies are diverted from programs and services, thereby lessening the impact the organization could have on the needs it was established to address.

In the Georgetown University Nonprofit Certificate Program, we often encounter organizations that are wrestling with these challenges. Repeatedly, when we talk with board members about nonprofit governance, several key questions surface — questions that, if not adequately addressed, potentially can impede the board’s — and the organization’s — effectiveness.

What is the board supposed to do?
Board members need and want to know what is expected of them.

How is the board supposed to function?
Board members need to understand governance models and principles, as well as the difference between their governance role and their support role.

What is the board’s relationship with the staff?
Board members need to see the relationship with the chief executive and staff as a partnership that is an essential factor in the success and effectiveness of the organization.

How does the board accomplish its work?
Board members need to know the basic rules for meetings, planning and organizational action.

Download the full essay

Excerpt from "Essays on Excellence: Lessons from the Georgetown Nonprofit Management Executive Certificate Program." Reprinted with permission of the author.

Michela M. Perrone, Ph.D., is President of MMP Associates, a consulting firm established in 1993 to support the successful development and increased effectiveness of organizations, boards and CEOs in the United States and Europe. She is a Senior Associate for Board Source (formerly the National Center for Nonprofit Boards), a consultant and trainer for the Washington Council of Agencies, the Maryland Association of Nonprofits, and Innovation Network. 

Learn from Michela Perrone, Ph.D., at the Not-for-Profit Conference

May 12, 2017
Cobb Galleria Centre

Understanding the latest regulatory and governmental changes is vital for not-for-profit organizations during this transitional time. The Not-for-Profit Conference will help you master new financial reporting standards, financial and compliance audits, and the latest legislative updates. Michela M. Perrone, Ph.D. will be providing a session on "Current Trends and Best Practices in NFP Governance."