Bridgestar Profiles "Governance as Leadership" for Nonprofit Organizations - Co-author William P. Ryan Offers Framework to Maximize Boards’ Effectiveness

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In December, "Leadership Matters," the monthly newsletter for senior nonprofit executives published by Bridgestar, focuses on a new framework for boards of directors of nonprofit organizations. The newsletter features an interview with William P. Ryan, a research fellow at the Hauser Center for Nonprofit Organizations at Harvard University and co-author of "Governance as Leadership: Reframing the Work of Nonprofit Boards," developed in collaboration with BoardSource and published by John Wiley (Oct. 2004). The interview discusses ways that boards can become more effective. - Bridgestar is a nonprofit organization building a peer network of senior nonprofit leaders to support and strengthen the sector.

According to Ryan, boards should not consist merely as "a Noah’s Ark of experts" in which directors help nonprofits as consultants and fundraisers. Calling for board members who can govern, Ryan proposes a framework for "generative governance." The goal of generative governance is for board members not just to approve recommendations from executive directors, but to drive strategy and decision-making for the organization.

The interview is also available at

Each month "Leadership Matters" picks a different theme designed as a conversation about how to build and sustain effective nonprofit organizations. "Leadership Matters" is available to all Bridgestar members or, for a complimentary subscription, please email Previous issues have reported on the Bridgestar Survey on Governance Practices, offered the comprehensive "Guide to Navigating the Hiring Process," and have focused on topics such as the role of the nonprofit COO, improving nonprofit accountability, as well as best practices in compensation and performance evaluations.

"These days there is a lot of pressure on boards to ensure organizations are more transparent and accountable – they’ve been cast into a fiduciary role. Financial discipline is important, but Bill Ryan suggests that boards need to do more for the sake of their organizations’ effectiveness," said David Simms, Managing Partner, Bridgestar. "By providing this view into ‘Governance as Leadership,’ Bridgestar hopes to promote new ways for senior nonprofit leaders and board members to think about, enable, and model better governance."

About Bridgestar

Bridgestar (, an initiative of the Bridgespan Group, is a nonprofit organization building a member-driven community of individuals and organizations working to strengthen their careers, their institutions, and the nonprofit sector. Established in 2003, Bridgestar’s goal is to attract, connect and support senior leaders – established and aspiring – for greater effectiveness and social impact.

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Norman Birnbach