Strengths and Weaknesses of the Current Model

Keynote Speaker
A Comprehensive Overview: the strengths
and weaknesses of the current model and
the range of options in Australia and
Associate Professor Jo Barraket
Australian Centre of Philanthropy & Non profit Studies
Queensland University of Technology
Community Sector Governance:
Strengths, Weaknesses, &
Jo Barraket, The Australian Centre for
Philanthropy and Nonprofit Studies
What we know about nonprofit
• Board effectiveness → organisational
• No single ‘best model’ of governance
• Operating environment significantly influences
governance choices and evolution
• Emphasis has been on organisational
governance rather than NFP contributions to
governance more widely
Different perspectives on governance
• Functional – focus on
instrumental functions of board,
management and other
• Interpretive – focus on board as
‘sense makers’ of organisation
• Political – focus on relations of
power within boards and between
boards and other stakeholders
Australian Nonprofit Board
Composition – the available evidence
• Predominately volunteers
• Predominately non-executive
• Predominately women (dependent on form of
• Predominately 40-65 years old
• Over-representation of professionals
• Larger on average than for-profit boards
Importance and Competence in Board Functions
Source: Nicholson et al 2008
Current Approaches to Governance
Common characteristics
Board has fiduciary responsibilities
Nature of constituent
Funder compliance – upward
Relationship between board and
Board typically elected by membership or
Roles of board/CEO in relation to strategic
and operational development
Distribution of decision-making power
Presumed function of boards
Strengths & Opportunities of Current
Connectedness to citizenry (sometimes!)
Diversity and adaptation to context
Access to embedded network resources
Relatively strong knowledge of management
and legal responsibilities (mostly selfreported)
• Giving voice to collective human aspirations
Weaknesses & Challenges of Current
Relatively high board turnover
Impacts of market models of governing
Growth in compliance culture
Lack of incentives for participation (?)
Demographic and technological changes
Limited engagement with parts of the
Alternative Models of Governance
Policy governance
Emphasis on board responsibility for
Clear role definition/lack of
connectedness of board to
operations, lack of innovation
Constituent board
Emphasis on board members as
representatives of constituency
Constituent control/lack of
strategic focus & role clarity
Entrepreneurial board
Emphasis on output efficiency through
innovation/market orientation
Focus on organisational
business/mission drift &
emphasis on short-term gain
Emergent cellular model
Emphasis on distributed networks and
continuous evolution
Highly adaptive/requires high
engagement & coordination
Source: Bradshaw et al, no date
• ‘Strengths’ & ‘weaknesses’ are relative and contingent on
what we think community sector organisations are for
• Operating context and organisational purpose matter
• No ideal model, but core functions
• Governance considerations need to include questions about:
– Composition
– Function
– Role and purpose
Resources for Board Self-Assessment
ACPNS Developing Your Board Wiki
Bradshaw, P., Hayday, B., Armstrong, R., Levesque, J., Rykert, L. (no date) Nonprofit
Governance Models: Problems and Prospects accessed
Hough, A., McGregor Lowndes, M. & Ryan, C. (2006) ‘The Training Grounds of Democracy?
Social Trends and Nonprofit Governance’ Working Paper No. CPNS31, Centre of Philanthropy
and Nonprofit Studies, Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane.
Nicholson, G., Newton, C. & McGregor Lowndes, M. (2008) Governance training needs in
Community Organisations, Just Policy 49, December 2008: 5-12.
Steane, P. And Christie, M. (2001) ‘Nonprofit Boards in Australia: a distinctive governance
approach’, Corporate Governance 9 (1): 48-58.
Woodward, S. And Marshall, P. (2004) A better framework: reforming not-for-profit
regulations Centre for Corporate Law and Securities Regulation, University of Melbourne,
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