Year of Publication

2008

College

Martin School of Public Policy and Administration

Executive Summary

The Fayette Foundation is a young, nonprofit organization in Lexington. Although it has only been incorporated for four years, it has already raised over one million dollars to fulfill the organization’s mission. The executive director has been with the organization for two years and believes that a strong relationship with the board is important for the success of the organization. As a result, the executive director would like to find out how to maximize the effectiveness of the board-executive director relationship.

The research question asks what makes an effective board-executive director relationship, as well as which elements of the organization or board might be related to the effectiveness of the board-executive director relationship. To answer this question, an extensive literature review was performed to develop a survey instrument. The developed survey consists of questions that allow an analysis of the effectiveness of the board-executive director relationship. The survey also includes questions that could help establish a correlation between various elements of an organization and the effectiveness of this relationship. The sample consisted of organizations in the Lexington area that belong to the same professional association as The Fayette Foundation. Executive directors of these nonprofit organizations took the survey on a website at their own convenience.

The results of the survey found that, on average, the samples’ boards managed their meetings well, had low levels of in-fighting, established clear guidelines for decision making authority and demonstrated a commitment to the organization’s mission and values. However, the sample had a lower average on items related to board involvement in fundraising and the development of clear expectations for the executive. There was a medium strength correlation between executive director tenure and an index of governance effectiveness developed from questions in the survey. Also, higher levels of communication between the executive director and board members (excluding the president of the board) was also positively correlated with governance effectiveness. However, board size was found to be only slightly positively correlated with board effectiveness.

The results of this survey can be used to help The Fayette Foundation’s board members benchmark their relationship with the executive director. Even if they are doing extremely well in this area, there is always room for improvement, and this survey can help them identify potential improvements for the board-executive director relationship.

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