The High Performance Board: Principles of Nonprofit Organization Governance

"Your board can make a difference on behalf of stakeholders and add real value. Or it can rob the organization of its potential. Which type of board will be yours?" This is the challenge posed by Dennis Pointer and James Orlikoff in The High Performance Board. Designed as a how-to guide, The High Performance Board accomplishes its objective by carefully delineating sixty-four principles for improving a board's performance and efficiency and provides recommendations for jump-starting the process as well as checkups for self-assessment.

In the preface, Pointer and Orlikoff state that they have a specific agenda and that their work is highly influenced by the ideas of John Carver, legendary expert and writer on nonprofit governance. The authors are principals in their own consulting firms, and each has authored a number of books and articles on the topic. Both currently hold positions with the American Governance and Leadership Group LLC —— Pointer as vice president and Orlikoff as executive director —— —lending them visibility and credibility in the field. In addition, their book Board Work (1999) was named the James A. Hamilton Book of the Year Award by the American College of Healthcare Executives.

The authors recommend their latest book for new board members who are venturing into unfamiliar territory, as well as for veteran board members attempting to get a handle on "best practices." Readers are encouraged to use the book as a road map for board initiation, alterations, and improvements. The authors put their stamp on the general principles by including specific applications and illustrations that liven up their material. Quizzes at the end of each chapter allow organizations to measure their grasp of skills needed for particular tasks.

Because there is a workbook aspect to the book, The High Performance Board would have been more user-friendly if it had been published in a large-format text with examples interspersed throughout. However, bulleted lists at the end of each chapter highlight the salient points in that section and contribute to the functional application of the material. Appendices are thorough and expansive, recapping the major information provided, and the book is well-indexed. There's a good bit of competition in terms of the premise of the book, and much of the information appears self-evident, but it is often good to be reminded, especially by two such authoritative experts, that one's organization is on either the right track or the wrong one.

For citations to additional materials on this topic, refer to Literature of the Nonprofit Sector Online, using the subject headings "Board members," or "Nonprofit organizations-administration."

Candace Springer
Assistant Librarian
Foundation Center
Atlanta, Georgia