In 2019, the Quality Assurance Team at the Myers-JDC-Brookdale Institute conducted a survey for JDC-Elka that examined various aspects of the activity of boards of directors of NGOs in Israel – the areas of activity of the boards of directors, their work practices, and their perceived effectiveness in advancing organizational goals. In 2021, it was decided to follow up with another study, which was conducted from December 2021 to June 2022.
The goal of the present survey was to map the characteristics, the areas of activity, and the work practices of boards of directors of NGOs in the two years that passed since the previous survey and in view of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The survey was conducted among 5,684 NGOs operating in the fields of education, welfare, community, health, or advocacy and social and political change, according to the classification of their areas of activity (as classified in GuideStar Israel – the directory of NGOs in Israel).
The study was based on qualitative and quantitative research methods:
- In-depth interviews with six CEOs and members of boards of directors of NGOs, both men and women. The interviews were conducted with the aim of fine-tuning the survey questionnaire.
- Online survey among CEOs and members of boards of directors of NGOs. Responses to the survey were received from 362 organizations constituting a representative sample of the study population: 178 board of directors members (83 board chairpersons and 95 board members) and 227 CEOs. Responses from both the CEO and the board of directors members were received from 44 organizations. In-depth interviews were conducted with seven CEOs and members of boards of directors of NGOs, both men and women, to get more in-depth insights on the survey findings.
Comparison between the previous study and the present study indicated the following:
- The boards of directors were still engaged in the same areas of activity: In 2021, the boards of directors still focused on intra-organizational areas of activity rather than on extra-organizational areas of activity (e.g., representation of the organization and fundraising).
- Greater commitment of members of boards of directors: A higher presence of board members in board meetings was reported as well as enhanced support and evaluation of the CEO and an increase in board members’ donations to the organization. At the same time, it was found that more members of boards of directors donated to other organizations, compared with those who donated to the organization they served in.
- The same measure of commitment was shown by board chairpersons, as reflected in the time dedicated by board chairpersons to the organization and the variety of organizational activities in which they were involved.
- Less involvement of members of boards of directors in organizational activities, excluding their presence in board meetings.
- Division of roles and responsibilities: In organizations with a clear-cut division of roles and responsibilities between the CEO and the board of directors members, board members focused on core areas – intra-organizational areas of activity.
- Gender representation: In the present survey, a correlation was found between a female majority on the board of directors and greater involvement in its development as a team.
- Perceived effectiveness of the boards of directors: The effectiveness of boards of directors was found to be on the decline, as perceived and reported by the CEOs of the respective organizations. At the same time, board members were more inclined to describe the board work practices as efficient and effective – in routine times as well as during the COVID-19 pandemic. In the present survey, it was found that boards of directors perceived as more effective were engaged to a greater extent in strategy formulation (as reported by both the board members and the CEOs); in the board team development (as reported by the board members); in establishing work plans and in fundraising and resource development (as reported by the CEOs). It was also found that there was a correlation between the annual turnover of the organization and the perceived effectiveness of the board of directors – the effectiveness of the board of directors was perceived as higher (as reported by the board members) in organizations with a high annual turnover.
- The COVID-19 pandemic: All the interviewees reported that the COVID-19 pandemic led to an improvement in organizational work practices – as reflected in the streamlined organizational budget management and in the expanded and diversified range of services offered by the organizations. At the same time, members of boards of directors as well as the CEOs reported that board effectiveness during the COVID-19 pandemic was lower than usual.
- Promote a clear-cut division of roles and responsibilities between the board of directors and the CEO and thereby focus the activities of the board of directors on the core areas of the organization.
- Enhance the involvement of the board of directors in areas of activity where it was found to be effective in routine times – strategy formulation, development of the board as a team, establishing work plans, and fundraising and resource development.
- Define the role of the board of directors in times of crisis: Boards of directors perceived as more effective during the COVID-19 pandemic were engaged to a greater extent in strategy formulation, in establishing work plans, and in monitoring the organization’s activities. In addition, it is of importance to coordinate expectations between the CEO and the board of directors members.
- Act to diversify the composition of the board of directors: Gender diversification and professional diversification would contribute to the improvement of the work practices and effectiveness of the board of directors.
Citing suggestion: Hasin, T., & Lento, T. (2022). Activity of Boards of Directors of NGOs in Israel in Routine Times and During the COVID-19 Pandemic. S-216-22. Myers-JDC-Brookdale Institute. (Hebrew)