Science History Institute [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

April 17, 2018; Philadelphia Inquirer and Philadelphia Business Journal

A new institute for nonprofit governance has sprung up, this one at Drexel University as a result of a $2.5 million gift from former Rohm and Haas CEO Raj Gupta, which was matched by a gift from the Haas Family Foundation. Patricia Connolly, the executive director for the University’s Center for Corporate Governance, will take the reins of this new Raj & Kamla Gupta Governance Institute, which will house both a corporate and nonprofit governance arm under one roof.

Before taking over the Center for Corporate Governance, Connolly served in senior roles at large Philadelphia nonprofits, including the Philadelphia Museum of the Arts, and has been on several nonprofit boards. Beyond that, leadership and staffing appear to have a largely corporate background—including new executive-in-residence Bill McNabb, former CEO of Vanguard—and may need to examine its capacity to branch into nonprofit governance.

“We want the institute to be at the forefront of governance issues for public, private, and nonprofit industries,” says Gupta, a Drexel alum and longtime Philadelphia business powerhouse. Philadelphia’s nonprofit sector is a dominant force, representing more than half of its top 25 employers, which includes Drexel University itself.

But, the world of nonprofit governance is undergoing rapid change to fit the function of the sector more accurately and is differentiating itself from for-profit governance in a number of significant ways. Increasingly, the nonprofit sector is looking beyond individual organizations’ boards of directors to drive governance, as articulated by David O. Renz in an NPQ article earlier this month, which stated that “nonprofit boards are merely one element and no longer the primary ‘home’ of the governance processes by which we address our most critical community issues.”

While this type of overarching body has been popular, and Connolly called the formation of the institute a “natural extension of the work the Center for Corporate Governance has been doing for the past decade,” the worlds of corporate and nonprofit governance are different—with different stakeholders, governing principles, and goals. Much of the new nonprofit governance research is encouraging the exploration of that difference as the cutting edge of practice.—Danielle Holly