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New Research Offers Guidance on Giving, Governance

Alyce Lee Stansbury, CFRE, Notes on Nonprofits

As anyone who has served, or is serving on a board knows, nonprofit governance is getting tougher and tougher. Too many nonprofit boards, filled with well-intentioned directors, are stuck in a rut of substandard governance, and need a way to break out.

To address this challenge, 30 experienced nonprofit directors representing over 100 boards were interviewed for a research study conducted for the Center for Social Sector Leadership at UC Berkley’s Haas School of Business and reported by Paul Jenson and Helen Hatch for the Stanford Social Innovation Review.

The resulting report supported the idea of designating one board member to serve as a Chief Governance Officer (CGO) to be a catalyst for improved nonprofit governance.

The role of the chief Governance Officer would focus on two areas:

  1. Ensure compliance with legal and social expectations; and
  2. Champion the adoption of proven governance practices to enable the board to effectively fulfill its mission.

Role of the Governance Officer

The CGO would serve as an advisor to the whole board and thought partner to the board chair. Their job would be to ask questions that prompt board discussion and action and play a hands-on role in four activities:

  • Leading a bi-annual review of governance practices and monitoring initiatives to improve board performance;
  • Driving new direct training and shaping supplemental training and education over time;
  • Monitor external governance related issues related to the law, regulations and social expectations on behalf of the board; and
  • Engage with the CEO on how staff can support high quality governance. This may include providing appropriate board materials and information to help board members make informed decisions and framing board discussion to encourage engagement with substantive issues.

The CGO must be on the board and have an objective, organization-first mindset. Communication and persuasion skills are as important as technical knowledge. Options for who could serve as the CGO include the board chair, vice chair, chair of the governance committee, executive committee member, or an independent director.

The researchers provide suggestions on ways to implement the role effectively including having the CGO report to the board rather than the chair who can sometimes be part of the problem. A two-year trial period is recommended to determine if the role has made a meaningful difference.

I am intrigued by this idea and would love to hear from any nonprofits who opt to move forward with the concept. Here is a link to the full article:

Giving in Florida Report

I participated in a webinar on April 1 for the release of “Giving in Florida,” a report on new research that is a collaboration between Florida Nonprofit Alliance, Jessie Ball DuPont Fund, and Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy. The focus of the research is to examine giving, volunteering and other charitable activities in 2021.

Some of the key findings are encouraging and include:

  • Almost 70% of Florida households gave to charity in 2021. 
  • Of those donors, 74% gave most of their donated funds to organizations based in Florida.
  • 46% of Florida donors gave locally, 24% gave in the US outside Florida, and 19% gave in Florida outside their local city/county.
  • 3 out of 4 high-net worth donors have included a charitable bequest in their will.
  • One in four Floridians gave to racial justice causes.
  • Over half (56%) of Floridian households reported volunteering.
  • The top two reasons Floridians gave to charity are altruism and empathy.

In addition to formal giving, 87% of Florida households reported participating in informal philanthropy such as giving to crowdfunding campaigns, donating goods to a food bank, or helping friends and family in need.

The top five issues that mattered most to Floridians who donated to charity in 2021 are poverty and income inequality (43%), health (41%), climate change and environment (28%), animal rights (28%), and disaster relief and recovery (27%). The report also includes detailed information about the difference in giving among donors aged 65 and up and 40 and under.

For a bit of bad news, the North Central region which includes Tallahassee and the Big Bend, had the lowest percentage of charitable giving in the state at 4%.

I am still unpacking all the information in this report and look forward to comparing the Florida data to the Giving USA study which will be released in June. Until then, this report provides valuable information to help inform the fundraising efforts of Florida nonprofits. Learn more at

Notes on Nonprofits is a column in the Tallahassee Democrat produced by Alyce Lee Stansbury, CFRE, President of Stansbury Consulting, and includes resources, responses to reader questions, guest columns, and timeless topics. This column first appeared on Sunday, April 9, 2022. Please send your comments and questions.

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