Nonprofit Governance Models: Problems and Prospects


This article by Pat Bradshaw explores existing and alternative non-profit board structures. The authors present four possible models and the possibilities of developing hybrid models based on the needs on individual organizations.  Drawing on their experiences in developing a new governance model for the Canadian Health Network, they argue that there is currently no agreement about a prescriptive or ideal model of nonprofit governance. Rather they suggest within the current diversity of thought about governance there is an exciting opportunity to create new models which are hybrids of existing and emerging models with the selection of the best model based on a contingency approach.

The paper begins with a review and critique of the normative and academic literatures on nonprofit boards looking at the assumptions which inform each. The paper then characterizes existing governance models along two dimensions: established vs. innovative and unitary vs. pluralistic. This provides us with a way of mapping current perspectives according to four different models; the Policy Governance model, the Entrepreneurial model, the Constituency model and the Emergent Cellular model. The paper briefly describes the characteristics of each model and outlines the positive and negative features of each. The paper concludes by describing a new hybrid model which embraces the strengths of each model and also capitalizes on some of the new ways of framing management in turbulent times.

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