Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Social Work (DSW)


Social Work


Lyle S. Hallman Faculty of Social Work

First Advisor

Gary Cameron

Advisor Role

Dissertation Supervisor


In theory, boards of directors of nonprofit organizations are thought to be instrumental in their agency’s effective functioning, and the available professional literature supports this perception. The board’s supposed duties are usually listed for members and others in the form of impressively-worded declarations of intent. Board members are expected to help formulate the organization’s mission statement, and provide a sense of direction. In an effort to ensure that their organization fulfills its mandate, board members are also expected to perform an array of internal and external functions designed to optimize the agency’s operation. This study presents the results of interviews completed with key informants as well as reviews of pertinent documents addressing the following primary questions: (1) What activities are being performed by the boards of directors of the participating social service agencies; (2) In what ways are boards of directors accountable to the planning system and what mechanisms do the boards utilize in displaying that they are accountable to the planning system; (3) What impact does the relationship between the social service agencies and the planning system have on what boards are doing as well as on what they are capable of doing; and (4) What impact do the individual relations between the planning system, executive directors and boards of directors have on the types of activities performed by boards and what they are capable of performing. The activities that are being performed by the boards of directors are ones that are usually presented in the prescriptive literature as the types boards should be performing. In examining board activity in organizational processes such as the development of the agency’s budget submission to the planning system as well as deliberations pertaining to agency policy/service issues, it is maintained that boards not only perform major tasks but also decide on what course of action the agency is going to pursue. In the area of accountability, it is argued that boards are indeed demonstrating their accountability to the planning system. The major areas of accountability are financial and program accountability with the former being the primary one where boards are most accountable. It is maintained that the need to fulfill the accountability requirements contained in the Corporations Act and the program agreements board sign with the planning system influences the nature of board activity. The relationship between the planning system and the social service agencies is another factor impacting on the types of activities performed by the boards. It is maintained that the types and sources of power possessed by the planning system especially in the area of funding allocations as well as the setting of provincial policy and service priorities, results in the situation where board activity is driven to a great extent by decisions made by the planning system. Contributing to this situation are the individual relationships between the planning system, the boards of directors and executive directors. It is argued that the combination of the limited interaction between the planning system and the boards of directors, and the frequent contact between the executive directors and the planning system, results in boards becoming engaged in activities that are agency-focused. It is maintained that boards of directors have adopted a contingency or situational model of board functioning. By using this type of model boards are responding and adapting to decisions made by the planning system that impact on agency functioning.

Convocation Year


Convocation Season


Included in

Social Work Commons