What Size Board is the Right Size?

The Standards for Excellence® code requires that a nonprofit board have no fewer than five board members, preferably at least seven. However, the true answer is that “it depends.”  The size of your board of directors will depend on the type of organization, the size of the organization’s budget, the organization’s maturity, and the nature of its work.  It might be appropriate for a very new nonprofit to have only five board members.  However, it is rare to find a well-established organization with such a small board of directors. In fact, according to the Nonprofit Governance Index, a national study conducted by Board Source, the national average size board is 16.  The fundamental question that you must answer to determine the appropriate size board, is “What size board will allow us to carry out effective, ethical, and accountable governance of the organization?  When considering the size of the board, the skills, diversity, and experience needed should also be factors. 

Did you know?  The Standards for Excellence® educational resource packet, “Board Composition,” includes a discussion on the advantages and disadantages of having a small board of directors versus large board of directors and vice versa.  This packet is free and available to Standards for Excellence Institute® members.  It is available through the members-only section of our website.  Hard copies are also available upon request. Not a member? Join now!

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