Good governance in philanthropy and nonprofits

Authored by: M. Elena Romero-Merino , Íñigo García-Rodriguez

The Routledge Companion to Philanthropy

Print publication date:  May  2016
Online publication date:  May  2016

Print ISBN: 9780415783255
eBook ISBN: 9781315740324
Adobe ISBN: 9781317579717


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As philanthropy, and the nonprofit sector more generally, has grown in size and importance, questions of governance have become an ever more prominent concern. Various scandals, combined with a realization that ‘the angelic’ sector has a ‘darker side’, explored by Smith et al. in Chapter 17 of this volume, have led to increasing calls for novel perspectives on, and approaches to, governance research and practice within the field (Cornforth and Brown, 2014). Traditionally, work on governance within the nonprofit sector has focused on boards’ performance, on their roles in fundraising and their linking to the community. Furthermore, such studies have tended to be descriptive, normative and lacking strong theoretical and empirical foundations (Miller-Millesen, 2003). When attempting to explain the complexities of nonprofit governance systems, and the contexts within which these operate, such an approach seems too narrow. Not only does it overlook the more holistic meaning of the word ‘governance’, from the Greek kybernân, ‘steering a ship or a chariot’, and the broader governing responsibilities derived therefrom, but it also ignores wider aspects of governance mechanisms relevant for philanthropic organizations.

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