“Corporate” governance in nonprofit organizations

A nontechnical review of the economic literature



The economics-based theoretical and related empirical literature on the governance of nonprofit organizations is brought together and integrated in a way easily accessible for noneconomists. This literature is scattered in academic journals covering economics, health economics, management, and accounting, and in the more nonprofit-geared research publications. After defining corporate governance, I present in a nontechnical way the most appropriate economic framework for studying governance problems: the principal-agent theory. Most of the economic literature deals with the role and influence of the board and its relation to the organization's management and performance. This is reflected in the article's structure. The board's functioning, composition, and committee structure are first discussed, followed by a review of the literature on incentive-based remuneration schemes, disclosure of financial information, and the use of debt to mitigate agency problems between the board and management. The literature dealing with donors and subsidizing authorities in governance relations is then presented. The article concludes with a number of practical implications of the scholarly obtained results to date, as well as some suggestions for further theoretical and empirical research.