Ongoing Governance Research

As part of our commitment to cultivate exceptional leadership in the association field, the ASAE Foundation continuously produces research on good governance practices. Foundation research studies have covered various facets of governance, including the principles of effective leadership, the characteristics of high-performing boards, and the relationships among board members and association executives. This research is designed to inform both association executives and board members to improve the effectiveness of association leadership.

Board Member Competencies and Selection Study

The foundation’s newest governance study, “Board Member Competencies and Selection” examines the characteristics and processes that result in the selection of effective boards. Researchers from Texas A&M University and the Association Management Center conducted a mixed-methods investigation of association practices in board selection and identified leading practices drawn from associations with high-performing boards. The outcomes include practical resources that association leaders can use to create a competency-based board recruitment and selection process.


Understanding Change Management in Board Performance

To build on the findings of What Makes High-Performing Boards?, the foundation designed further study to understand how associations have undertaken the change management process to realize the practices that define the best boards.

Twenty markers of board performance were identified in What Makes High-Performing Boards?. Participants in that study who had ranked in the top quartile in these areas, along with other associations meeting the same criteria, were invited to participate in this next phase, resulting in an interview pool of 56 participants, predominately association CEOs. Researchers conducted in-depth telephone interviews with participants on their experiences with transformational governance change. Follow-up conversations with CEOs, and in some cases their board chairs and/or past chairs, were also conducted. Researchers augmented the findings with the input of an additional 29 association executives.

The resulting book, Transformational Governance: How Boards Achieve Extraordinary Change, details, in narrative and case study form, how associations have improved board performance and provides insight into effective processes and lessons learned by association leaders.

Defining the Traits of High-Performing Boards

The costs of low-performing boards are high for associations. Board ineffectiveness breeds organizational stagnation and executive turnover. Associations with successful, functional boards may seem fortunate, but research by the ASAE Foundation indicates that these organizations have a common set of values and processes that lead to high-performing boards.

In an extensive survey, 1,583 association executives reported on their boards’ structure, dynamics, and performance. The analysis defined the key drivers of association board performance, including strategic orientation, board recruitment and training, and accountability. These drivers are discussed at length in What Makes High-Performing Boards: Effective Governance Practices in Member-Serving Organizations. The results will help association leaders understand patterns of behavior in organizations that support high board performance and that are intentional, not dependent on industry sector or capacity.

The Role of Self-Assessment in Board Performance

Assessing Board Performance: An Analysis of ASAE-BoardSource Board Self-Assessment Results aggregated the responses of 1,367 individuals serving 75 membership organizations who used the ASAE-BoardSource Board Self-Assessment Tool. In this performance measurement framework, board members (and the CEO or chief staff officer) rated 68 items about various aspects of their responsibility in the areas of mission, strategy, funding, public image, board composition, program oversight, financial oversight, CEO oversight, board structure, and meetings.

The findings identify how organizational characteristics influence individual board members’ experiences, including satisfaction and perception of board performance, and how an individual’s role on the board affects their perception of board effectiveness.

For more information about these research projects and publications, contact

Additional Publications and Resources

Boards That Spark Innovation

Governing for Good

The Perils of Poor Governance

Where Does Board Change Begin?