A new report from BoardSource, "Leading With Intent: 2017 National Index of Nonprofit Board Practices" includes findings on board size, which has declined steadily over the past 20 years.
The size of a board affects how its work is conducted, and different sizes work for different organizations. However, BoardSource believes it's possible for a board to be either too small or too large.
In general, it recommends that there be at least 5 board members, regardless of what an organization's bylaws require. Otherwise, the organization may not have enough skills and expertise to draw upon when making decisions. In addition, a board that's too small may have difficulty supporting and overseeing the CEO. And, finally, a too-small board might not have enough reach to create a strong fundraising network.
A board that is too big may find it challenging to have fruitful conversations utilizing all of its members. In this situation, many important organizational issues may get shifted to the executive committee, which can create a disconnect. Board members can end up feeling as if their participation is not values, and- even worse- the board's ability to govern may be adversely affected.
The bottom line from BoardSource is that every organization has its own particular needs for governance, so board size needs to be determined on a case-by-case basis. And of course, organizational needs change with growth, so board size needs to be a topic that gets discussed and planned for.
Please be in touch with me to discuss your board needs!