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Voices of Board Chairs: A National Study on the Perspectives of Nonprofit Board Chairs–How They Prepare for and Perceive Their Role in Relation to the Board, Community, and CEO

Judy Freiwirth, Michael Burns, Gayle Gifford, Mary Hiland, Debra Beck


Although a significant amount of prescriptive literature focuses on board chair roles and responsibilities, few studies focus on how board chairs perceive and prepare for their leadership role. With 635 completed surveys from board chairs from local, regional, and national organizations in 42 states, this is one of the few studies in which information is obtained about board chairs from board chairs directly. In this study, we examine (1) how board chairs perceive their role relative to the board, organization, community, and CEO; (2) how they prepared for their board chair role; and (3) what they found helpful in assuming the board chair role. Fifty-one percent of the respondents indicated that they did nothing specific to prepare to become chairs. For those who prepared, only 56% stated that they followed an intentional process. A majority of board chairs indicated that their role did not include engaging with external stakeholders or advocacy.

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nonprofit board chairs; nonprofit governance; board leadership development; board chair–CEO relationship; board chair

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