Journal of Business Ethics

, Volume 133, Issue 1, pp 179–191 | Cite as

The Influence of Board Diversity, Board Diversity Policies and Practices, and Board Inclusion Behaviors on Nonprofit Governance Practices

  • Kathleen Buse
  • Ruth Sessler Bernstein
  • Diana Bilimoria


This study examines how and when nonprofit board performance is impacted by board diversity. Specifically, we investigate board diversity policies and practices as well as board inclusion behaviors as mediating mechanisms for the influence of age, gender, and racial/ethnic diversity of the board on effective board governance practices. The empirical analysis, using a sample of 1,456 nonprofit board chief executive officers, finds that board governance practices are directly influenced by the gender and racial diversity of the board and that board inclusion behaviors together with diversity policies and practices mediate the influence of the board’s gender and racial diversity on internal and external governance practices. Additionally, we found an interaction effect that indicates when boards have greater gender diversity, the negative impact of racial diversity on governance practices is mitigated. The findings suggest that board governance can be improved with more diverse membership, but only if the board behaves inclusively and there are policies and practices in place to allow the diverse members to have an impact.


Diversity Diversity policies and practices Inclusion behavior Board effectiveness Nonprofit boards 



The authors thank BoardSource for providing us with the data from the 2012 Governance Index Survey for Chief Executives and the two anonymous reviewers for their suggestions to improve the manuscript.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Kathleen Buse
    • 1
  • Ruth Sessler Bernstein
    • 2
  • Diana Bilimoria
    • 1
  1. 1.Weatherhead School of ManagementCase Western UniversityClevelandUSA
  2. 2.School of BusinessPacific Lutheran UniversityTacomaUSA

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