Research & Critical Issues

The support that BoardSource provides to individual nonprofit leaders and organizations through our leadership initiatives is informed and strengthened by our broader work to identify and map trends within the nonprofit sector and to inspire action on critical issues facing nonprofit organizations and the social sector.


We invite you to learn more about our leadership initiatives.

The Power of Possibility: Exploring Greater Impact through Strategic Partnerships

Initiated by BoardSource and leaders in the field of nonprofit restructuring, The Power of Possibility: Exploring Greater Impact through Strategic Partnerships campaign invites nonprofit boards and executives to consider whether a strategic alliance or restructuring effort could help them unlock new opportunities for impact. The campaign encourages nonprofit leaders to think about going beyond organizational boundaries to do together what you may not be able to do alone. And to consider how your efforts could be accelerated and amplified by working together.

The Power of Possibility campaign is a joint effort of BoardSource, The Bridgespan Group, La Piana Consulting, The Lodestar Foundation, Lyda Hill, MAP for Nonprofits, and The Patterson Foundation, with additional support from the C.S. Mott Foundation and The Trustees’ Philanthropy Fund of Fidelity Charitable. Download free resources to guide nonprofit board conversations about strategic alliances and restructuring at

Measuring Fundraising Effectiveness

BoardSource, along with our colleagues at the Association of Fundraising Professionals, BBB Wise Giving Alliance, and GuideStar, has developed a new framework — a more balanced approach — for evaluating fundraising effectiveness. It emphasizes how important it is to invest in strong and sustainable fundraising programs as well as to ensure that your organization is being smart and strategic about the return on investment that it is getting from those investments.

Learn more about one of our newest leadership initiatives, Measuring Fundraising Effectiveness, and download three additional tools: a toolkit to help your nonprofit’s leaders apply the framework to your organization, a PowerPoint deck to start the conversation about your organization’s fundraising measures, and an Excel tool to help you calculate your organization’s scores.

Board Advocacy and Ambassadorship

The most successful nonprofits understand that advocacy is a powerful lever for real impact. And yet — according to BoardSource’s Leading with Intent survey — only 33 percent of nonprofits report that their board members are actively involved in advocating for their missions, and many organizations aren’t advocating at all. To inspire and challenge board leaders to actively serve as ambassadors and advocates for their organization’s work, BoardSource created the Stand for Your Mission campaign. Together with Alliance for Justice, Campion Foundation, Forum of Regional Associations of Grantmakers, John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, and National Council of Nonprofits, we seek to firmly establish advocacy as an expectation for engaged and effective board leadership.

Leading with Intent and Other Research

BoardSource maps sector-wide trends in board leadership and governance through our biennial study, Leading with Intent: A National Index of Nonprofit Board Practices. Building on data that have been collected regularly since 1994, Leading with Intent provides us with powerful insights into critical shifts and changes in nonprofit board leadership and governance, as well as identifies areas where more change is needed. This research is augmented by aggregate data collected through the Board Self-Assessment, which — coupled with our direct work with boards and executives — enables BoardSource to bridge research and practice and generate research- and evidence-based recommendations for effective board practice.

Diversity, Inclusion, and Equity

BoardSource envisions a world where every social sector organization has the leadership it needs to fulfill its mission and advance the public good. While many factors contribute to strong and effective board and staff leadership, we believe that a commitment to diversity, inclusion, and equity is essential to making this vision a reality. We are committed to supporting and encouraging boards as they work to strengthen their leadership on diversity, inclusion and equity, both within their institutions and in the work their organizations do.

As leaders and the ultimate decision-making bodies for nonprofit organizations, boards of directors guide the way that each organization articulates and upholds its purpose, its values, and its responsibility to advance the public good. Through these focused efforts, BoardSource aspires to help unleash the full potential of the social sector to be a force for a more just society and world. Learn more about BoardSource’s Commitment to Diversity, Inclusion, & Equity: For Ourselves and the Social Sector.

Board Transparency

In an environment where donors, the public, and charity regulators are asking more and more questions about the effectiveness of nonprofit organizations, it is increasingly important for nonprofits to lead the charge in creating transparency around their organizational practices, including the work of the board. Early in 2014, BoardSource worked with GuideStar to launch a new section of the GuideStar Nonprofit Profiles that enables organizations to share information about essential board leadership practices, including board orientation and education, executive oversight, ethics and transparency, board composition and diversity, and board performance and assessment. BoardSource and GuideStar continue to work together to encourage greater transparency around board leadership practices, a key strategy for building greater awareness and trust around how nonprofit organizations are being led.