Date of Award


Degree Name

PhD Leadership Studies

Dissertation Committee

Robert Donmoyer, Ph.D.; Fred J. Galloway, Ed.D.; Mary McDonald, Ph.D.


Boards of Directors, Clients, Governance, Human Services, Nonprofit


The literature suggests that thoughtful board composition generates more strategic and thoughtful policymaking. This study examined one aspect of board composition that is frequently cited as a source of more strategic and thoughtful policymaking: clients as voting members.

This study used descriptive and inferential statistics to examine the prevalence of, and the factors associated with clients participating as board members of human services nonprofit organizations in San Diego County. Through a review of the most recent 12 months of board meeting notes, this study also explored the level of participation of two clients on the board of directors of one organization.

The work was accomplished in two phases. The National Taxonomy of Exempt Entities Core Codes (NTEE-CC) was used to identify organizations in the human services category. During the first phase, 275 human services organizations in San Diego County were invited to have a representative participate in a survey, either electronically or by telephone. Sixty-one organizations participated in the survey resulting in a response rate of 22%. A nonresponse-bias test suggested that there was no significant difference between the responding organizations and the population.

Of the 61 respondents, 14 indicated they had at least one client on their organization’s board of directors. The study also explored client involvement in other potential decision-making activities including serving on advisory committees, volunteering as part of a work group, completing fact-finding surveys, and holding membership.

Binomial logistic regression analysis was used to identify demographic variables and other organizational characteristics associated with having clients on boards. Among other things, this analysis revealed that 71% of organizations with clients on boards were classified as NTEE-CC subsectors P80-89, i.e., Centers to Support the Independence of Specific Populations.

Phase II of this study entailed an examination of the board meeting notes of one organization with two clients on its board of directors. The meeting notes indicated that client board members participated in meeting activities at the same level as non-client board members did.

This study is an initial attempt to move beyond normative discussions of clients on nonprofit organizations’ boards. Additional empirical work needs to be done.

Document Type

Dissertation: Open Access


Leadership Studies