Governance models for nonprofits offer structures to distribute power and make decisions within a nonprofit. They connect the board with the organization’s constituents and stakeholders and provide an environment of shared ownership, empowerment and mutual accountability.

The media frequently focuses on bad or ineffective board governance, and this shady focus can deter potential volunteers from joining directorships on nonprofit boards. Together with the fact that nonprofit board seats are not usually paid and come with annual budgets for giving, it’s no wonder that the nonprofit sector struggles to attract top board members and keep them engaged.

While traditional governance approaches are based on corporate models and outdated top-down command and management paradigms continue to dominate the sector of non-profits, they often separate the board, stakeholders and communities from the work of the organization and inhibit effective accountability and governance. The key to solving this issue is to ensure that nonprofit governance models are constructed and used in ways that encourage good governance and improve the impact of community-based organizations.

Many nonprofit organizations will start with one main governance model, such as Carver’s model for a policy board and then develop one or more additional governance models to better meet the needs of their particular organization. Some nonprofits form a leadership team to help with fundraising or other responsibilities, while others may choose an organizational-team governance model to ensure regulatory conformity. It is common to form committees within the board to deal with issues like governance and nominations, risk and finance or executive decisions.

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