Is there a breakdown in the governance function of nonprofit boards? This is the question behind the article with the above title in the Spring 2005 issue of SSIR. Michael Klausner and Jonathan Small argue that there is a deep ambiguity in the role of the boards of nonprofit organizations as they currently operate: Unlike boards of commercial corporations, nonprofit boards are supposed both to exercise full governmental oversight and serve as fund-raisers and image-enhancers of their organizations. This, according to the authors, sets up a dysfunctional situation wherein many nonprofit boards do neither job very well.
The solution recommended by Klausner and Small is to establish a legal bifurcation of boards, in which there would be designated “governors,” who have the full responsibility for organizational governance, and “nongoverning board members,” who fulfill the other board functions. Could this be a solution to the challenge of nonprofit oversight, or is it a solution to a nonexistent problem that would set up a distinction between “first class” and “second class” board membership? What do current members of nonprofit boards think of this idea?