Foundation Center - Knowledge to build on.
Home Profile Search Site Map Ask Us Donate Now
About Us Locations Newsletters Press Room PND
Get Started

- New Visitors
- Individual Grantseekers
- Nonprofit Grantseekers
- Grantmakers
- Legislators and Policymakers
- International Visitors
- People With Disabilities
- Children and Youth
- Reporters/Media

Get Answers
- Knowledge Base
- Ask Us
- Topical Resource Lists

Learn About
- Foundations and Fundraising
- Proposal Writing
- Nonprofit Management
- Tools and Resources

Training Courses
- Classroom Training
- Online Training
- Training Videos
- Webinars

Library/Learning Centers
- Atlanta
- Cleveland
- New York
- San Francisco
- Washington, DC
- Funding Information Network
Topical Resource Lists

The Multiple Roles of Nonprofit Boards:
A Resource List

An engaged and effective board of directors is key to a nonprofit organization's success. This resource list celebrates the philanthropy of board members and honors their service in the multiple roles they play in their organizations—as leaders, planners, stewards, fundraisers, and partners. It includes citations to selected works from the Foundation Center's bibliographic database, Catalog of Nonprofit Literature. For a complete list of citations on board-related topics, search Catalog of Nonprofit Literature using Board members or Nonprofit organizationsadministration and other suggested subject headings: Fundraisingadministration, Nonprofit organizationscollaboration, Nonprofit organizationsfinance, and Strategic planning.

General Resources

Brown, Jim. The Imperfect Board Member: Discovering the Seven Disciplines of Governance Excellence. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass Publishers, 2006. xviii, 204 p.
Brown uses a fictional story to outline seven principles that lead to more effective boards. The protagonist discovers that boards must be not only experienced, or "smart," but also cooperative and focused, or "healthy." Brown emphasizes the "healthy" aspects of successful boards. An afterword sums up the model, gives more tips, and provides bibliographic citations.
Eadie, Douglas C. Extraordinary Board Leadership: The Seven Keys to High-Impact Governance. Gaithersburg, MD: Aspen Publishers, 2001. xxv, 243 p.
Explains the seven key points in building effective boards under the author's "high-impact governance model." Under the model, the board plays a proactive role in adding value to the organization, creates a productive partnership with the chief executive officer, capitalizes on the assets of the board members, carefully designs its mission and structure, accepts the leadership role in producing innovation, takes part in budget and operational planning, and develops external relations using its connections.
Exceptional Board Practices: The Source in Action. Washington, DC: BoardSource, 2007. xiii, 139 p.
A compilation of Board Member articles and BoardSource white papers that help explain how boards can apply principles highlighted in the companion volume "The Source: Twelve Principles of Governance That Power Exceptional Boards." The principles cover several areas, such as building partnerships, focusing on your mission, strategic planning, promoting transparency, developing resources, measuring outcomes, and other topics.
Nonprofit Board Answer Book: A Practical Guide for Board Members and Chief Executives. 2nd ed. Washington, DC: BoardSource, 2007. xviii, 328 p.
Written in question-and-answer format, provides basic information about the functions, structure, tasks, meetings, and selection of nonprofit boards. Indexed.
O'Connell, Brian. The Board Member's Book: Making a Difference in Voluntary Organizations. 3rd ed. New York, NY: Foundation Center, 2003. viii, 248 p.
Written for board members, this guide to the essential functions of voluntary boards covers such areas as: the role of nonprofit boards; finding, developing, and recognizing good board members; the role of the board president; working with committees; the board's role in fundraising; accountability; and evaluation. With bibliographic references and index.
Panel on the Nonprofit Sector. Principles for Good Governance and Ethical Practice : A Guide for Charities and Foundations. Washington, DC: Independent Sector, 2007. 28 p.
The guide outlines 33 practices designed to support board members and staff leaders of every charitable organization as they work to improve their own operations. The Panel on the Nonprofit Sector incorporated a careful review of more than 50 self-regulation systems, counsel from a diverse committee of experts, and significant feedback from the field in the development of the principles outlined in the publication.

Collaboration / Partnerships

DeVita, M. Christine. "Constructing a Partnership." Board Member vol. 15 (September-October 2006) p. 8-11.
The president of the Wallace Foundation describes the complementary roles of board members and staff, and discusses the elements of successful partnerships. She explains that organizations need to bridge information gaps, build board cohesion, and develop appropriate meeting structures.
Howe, Fisher. The Nonprofit Leadership Team: Building the Board-Executive Director Partnership. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass Publishers, 2004. xx, 198 p.
This book homes in on the special relationship between the board and the executive director, emphasizing the nature of mutual expectations of this shared leadership role. The responsibilities of the team are outlined, and include mission and strategic planning, financial governance, fundraising, and marketing. The particular challenges are also explored. Special resources, such as a sample board-staff contract, board self-assessment, code of online practices, are appended. With bibliographical references and an index.
Williams, Sherill K. and Kathleen A. McGinnis. Getting the Best from your Board: An Executive's Guide to a Successful Partnership. Washington, DC: BoardSource, 2007. x, 63 p.
Focuses on the special relationship between the CEO and the board. With bibliographical references.

Fiduciary Responsibilities

Berger, Steven. Understanding Nonprofit Financial Statements. 3rd ed. Washington, DC: BoardSource, 2008. x, 78 p.
A guide written for board members that explains how to use financial information to evaluate organizational performance and carry out fiduciary and legal responsibilities.
Butler, Lawrence M. The Nonprofit Dashboard: A Tool for Tracking Progress. Washington, DC: BoardSource, 2007. viii, 53 p.
Using the metaphor of a dashboard, the author presents a tool for improving board oversight through quick reports that can predict problems in the making. With bibliographical references.
Flather, Newell and Pamela Labonte Maksy. "This is Your Final Notice." Foundation News & Commentary vol. 44 (July-August 2003) p. 30-4.
Fiduciary oversight is a primary responsibility of foundation trustees. This article provides practical advice to foundation board members on safeguarding the funder, and four case studies illustrate potential pitfalls.
Lang, Andrew S. Financial Responsibilities of Nonprofit Boards. Rev. ed. Washington, DC: BoardSource, 2002. vii, 51 p. (BoardSource Governance Series).
Covers financial questions board members should ask, systems that protect nonprofits, various financial roles in organizations, and ways to understand the fiscal condition of a nonprofit; also discusses banking, investments, and insurance. With glossary, bibliography, and index.
Lehman, Ann W. and Robert M. Zimmerman. Board Members Rule : How to be a Strategic Advocate for Your Nonprofit. San Francisco, CA: Zimmerman Lehman Associates, 2007. xv, 112 p.
Answers questions related to the board's fiduciary responsibilities, management and oversight of the nonprofit, and promotion of the organization. Includes sample documents.


Diehl, Barbara. "Involving the Board in the Fun of Charitable Gift Planning." Journal of Gift Planning vol. 10 (4th quarter, 2006) p. 11-5, 36-9.
Explains how development staff can engage board members in an organization's planned giving program, and in the process, also cultivate them as donors. The second part of the article is a guide directed at board members, describing their roles and levels of involvement in planned giving programs.
Gottlieb, Hildy. Friend Raising: Community Engagement Strategies for Boards who Hate Fundraising but Love Making Friends. Tucson, AZ: Renaissance Press, 2006. 209 p.
Gottlieb describes a variety of means for introducing friends and contacts to the work of a charity, and ultimately asking them for support. Includes many inspirational anecdotes, worksheets, practical tips, and, in each instance, explains what the role of the board members should be.
Greenfield, James M. Fundraising Responsibilities of Nonprofit Boards. Washington, DC: BoardSource, 2002. viii, 42 p. (BoardSource Governance Series).
A guide written for new board members that explains basic fundraising principles and discusses the role of the board. Describes how to recruit board members to assist with fundraising and covers the evaluation of fundraising efforts. With bibliography and index.
Panas, Jerold. The Fundraising Habits of Supremely Successful Boards: A 59-minute Guide to Assuring your Organization's Future. Medfield, MA: Emerson & Church, 2006. 108 p.
Panas uses personal anecdotes to describe the practices that make for successful fundraising by board members.
Perry, Gail. Fired-up Fundraising: Turning Board Passion into Action. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons. 2007, xxvii, 212 p.
In this primer, the author addresses how to engage the board in Passion-Driven Fundraising. In this technique, nonprofit leaders appeal to board members' dedication to mission and vision in order to create excitement around raising funds. Provides a step-by-step process to build a board that is passionate about fundraising. With bibliographic references, sample forms, and index.
Sternberg, Dave. Fearless Fundraising for Nonprofit Boards. 2nd ed. Washington, DC: BoardSource, 2008. 61 p.
Provides practical fundraising advice for board members with a focus on obtaining gifts from individual donors. Topics discussed include the board's fundraising culture, plans for individual board members, donor motivations, and the overall fundraising process. Materials in the appendices include samples documents, exercises, and a checklist.
Zimmerman, Robert M. and Ann W. Lehman. Boards that Love Fundraising: A How-to Guide for your Board. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass Publishers, 2004. xvii, 110 p.
The authors outline the specific board responsibilities vis-a-vis fundraising, and then delve into an explication of fundraising techniques and approaches. Other issues that are explained here are the costs of fundraising, evaluation of the effort, the delineation between staff and board, and what can be expected of the executive director. Includes many worksheets.


Carver, John. Boards that Make a Difference: A New Design for Leadership in Nonprofit and Public Organizations. 3rd ed. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass Publishers, 2006. xxviii, 418 p.
Orients board members to their role as strategic leaders, emphasizing the necessary aspects of governance: making policy, articulating the organization's mission, and sustaining its vision. Helps boards to concentrate their energies on the overall purpose of their organization and guides them in working with managers to accomplish that purpose. Presents procedures for evaluating the executive staff, organizing committees, delegating authority to management, making decisions as a board, and establishing bylaws for the board's self-governance. With bibliographical references and index.
Chait, Richard P., William P. Ryan, and Barbara E. Taylor. Governance as Leadership: Reframing the Work of Nonprofit Boards. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, 2005. xxvi, 198 p.
Noting that board oversight is now front-page subject matter due to recent controversies, the authors have developed the principles in this book as part of a larger Governance Futures Project. They present an analytical treatment of three modes of governance and follow with practical initiatives that boards can adopt. The book is directed primarily to trustees and leaders who are concerned with strategic change for their organizations. With bibliographical references and an index.
Cialdini, Robert B. "A Board Member's Guide to Influence." Associations Now vol. 3 (January 2007) p. 57-60.
A behavioral scientist explains how to apply the principles of persuasion when you are new to the board, when you are the new board chair, and when your board is at an impasse. The article is part of a special volunteer leadership issue of "Associations Now."
Harrison, Yvonne and Vic Murray. "The Best and Worst of Board Chairs." Nonprofit Quarterly, vol. 14 (Summer 2007): p. 24-9.
Summarizes the findings of an in-progress research project, in which the authors seek to determine what qualities are deemed positive or negative in a board chair. Effective and ineffective board chair traits are listed and noted as consistent with existing leadership theories. The authors pose several unanswered questions that they plan to examine in the third phase of their research.
Wertheimer, Mindy R. The Board Chair Handbook. 2nd ed. Washington, DC: BoardSource, 2008. viii, 91 p.
This guide explains the many factors that should be considered when a person is deciding to accept the responsibility of being a board chair. Also delves into the role of the chair, partnership with the chief executive, and the importance of excellent communication. Includes numerous sample documents such as a fundraising letter to board members, job descriptions for board members, and a letter requesting termination. With bibliographical references.
Werther, William B., Jr. and Evan M. Berman. "Leading the Transformation of Boards." Nonprofit World vol. 22 (March-April 2004) p. 9, 11-3.
The authors align the life cycle stages of a nonprofit organization (start-up, growth, and maturity) with changing expectations and roles for board members.

Legal Responsibilities

Bobowick, Marla J. "Rules for Board Members Who Provide Professional Services." Exempt, (September-October 2007): p. 13-5.
The article describes potential conflict of interest issues that may arise when board members have technical expertise, such as lawyers, financial advisors, or funders.
Bryson, Ellen and Andrew Schulz. Top 10 Ways Corporate Foundations Get into Trouble. Washington, DC: Council on Foundations, 2004. 21 p.
Brief guidelines for board members of corporate foundations, specifically related to certain aspects of law: self-dealing, disqualified persons, conflict of interest, quid pro quo grants, employee pledges and matching gifts, tickets to fundraising events, sharing resources, grants to individuals, scholarships, grants to organizations that are not charities, and international grantmaking.
Herman, Melanie L. Pillars of Accountability: A Risk Management Guide for Nonprofit Boards. 2nd ed. Washington, DC: Nonprofit Risk Management Center, 2006. xi, 74 p.
A brief and concise primer covering the basic principles of risk management.
Hopkins, Bruce R. Legal Responsibilities of Nonprofit Boards. Washington, DC: BoardSource, 2003. viii, 36 p.
Kurtz, Daniel L. and Sarah E. Paul. Managing Conflicts of Interest: A Primer for Nonprofit Boards. 2nd ed. Washington, DC: BoardSource, 2006. x, 57 p.
The authors introduce the topic by explaining how conflicts arise, usually due to financial interests or loyalty to more than one organization. The pertinent laws related to private inurement, intermediate sanctions, and self-dealing are reviewed. The authors strongly recommend the creation of a policy to address potential conflicts before they arise, and suggest the components of such a document. With glossary and bibliographical references.
Tesdahl, D. Benson. The Nonprofit Board's Guide to Bylaws: Creating a Framework for Effective Governance. Washington, DC: BoardSource, 2003. ix, 32 p.
Provides a basic definition of bylaws and an overview of the issues and areas bylaws should address. Gives examples to illustrate the relationship between state law and bylaws, and also explains how to amend the bylaws. Includes a sample conflicts-of-interest policy and a bibliography.

Strategic Planning

Building a Long-Range Plan [video recording]. Hawarden, IA: Cain Consulting Group, 2006. 45 minutes.
Board development expert Dan Cain explains how to develop a long-term plan for your organization. Discusses the purpose of planning, who to involve in the process, developing a mission statement, reviewing and tracking the plan, and other topics
Howe, Fisher. The Board Member's Guide to Strategic Planning: A Practical Approach to Strengthening Nonprofit Organizations. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass Publishers, 1997. xiii, 114 p.
Discusses the importance of strategic planning and explains the board's responsibilities in the process. Provides advice for various stages of strategic planning, from preparation to execution of the plan.
Yankey, John A. and Amy McClellan. The Nonprofit Board's Role in Planning and Evaluation. Washington, DC: BoardSource, 2002. x, 49 p. (BoardSource Governance Series). ISBN: 1-58686-060-7.
Defines strategic planning and evaluation, explaining why board members should be involved with both. Contains brief chapters on evaluating programs and organizational effectiveness. With glossary, bibliography, and index.

Surveys and Reports

The 2007 Grant Thornton National Board Governance Survey for Not-for-Profit Organizations. Chicago, IL: Grant Thornton, 2007. 20 p.
Responses to the 2007 web-based survey were received from 603 not-for-profit chief executive officers, chief financial officers, and board members of higher education institutions, trade and professional associations, social and human service organizations, religious organizations, cultural organizations, and foundations. Respondents covered 47 states and the District of Columbia. The survey focuses on governance practices.
The Nonprofit Governance Index 2007. Washington, DC: BoardSource, 2007. 21 p.
Provides results from a BoardSource member survey that covers board performance, board composition, board structures, and oversight policies.
Ostrower, Francie. Nonprofit Governance in the United States : Findings on Performance and Accountability From the First National Representative Study. Washington, DC: Urban Institute Center on Nonprofits and Philanthropy, 2007. iv, 26 p.
Results of a survey of over 5,100 nonprofit organizations of varied size, type, and location. The study addresses three areas of nonprofit governance: how accountability policies such as Sarbanes-Oxley affect nonprofits; factors that promote or impede boards' stewardship of organizations; and the board composition and recruitment process. With bibliographical references.

Links to Internet Resources

For a list of Internet resources on board-related topics, please see the Foundation Center's FAQ, "Where can I find information on nonprofit boards?"
© Foundation Center
All Rights Reserved.
Privacy Policy