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The Design for Effective Governance program was established to provide a long-term impact on institutional growth and stability by developing strong leadership at the highest level-the governing board. The program was created and is managed by Philanthropic Service for Institutions (PSI), a department of the North American Division.

A governing board holds the greatest responsibility in building a strong institution. The board must ensure that an organization operates legally and with sound financial practices. The board is also charged with seeing that the organization operates accountably, ethically, and is focused on its mission.

An organization is most successful when the board is clear on its role, and when the board holds the chief executive and/or staff accountable in their roles. Therefore, it is imperative to educate, inspire and motivate governing board members. This is accomplished by providing thorough training and resources. It is also important that organizational leadership build the right relationships with the board.

The Design for Effective Governance (DEG) program provides an opportunity for an institution to encourage board excellence, and for the board and administration to develop the most effective partnership.


DEG grants are available to all North American Division hospitals, colleges, universities and academies, that are PSI member organizations.  The Acceptance Review Committee will seek to give grants to those organizations that have the potential for making positive change within the board structure and operation, and have the infrastructure to ensure that the grant will have a significant impact. Grants will be given on the merits of the board development plan as stated in the application.  Only organizations in which the CEO’s have been in their positions for at least 12 months will be eligible.


DEG will provide grants for board retreats, training and other board development activities.  The grants will be made on a matching basis, dollar for dollar, identical to the investment that the institution invests with a maximum of $2,500. An additional $1,000 is available upon receipt by PSI of a brief report after one year from the original activity or board training/retreat, and of a copy of the board manual. After the letter of acceptance has been sent, an organization has six months in which to utilize the grant. The grant will be given on a reimbursement basis unless unusual circumstances require special consideration. Grants will be awarded until the funds for that calendar year are expended.


The application can be downloaded and must be sent with the accompanying materials:

  • Current Mission Statement
  • Board Profile: Names of board members, tenure and their respective professions or relationship to the institution (please note which members are ex-officio) Include a list of board officers and committees. Please note whether committees are active or inactive
  • The Board development plan
  • Most recent audited financial statement
  • Most recent completed CAE summary of voluntary support, if available
  • Current Board Bylaws (or notice if an NAD standardized one is used).

Once the application is accepted, the organization will receive a letter of acceptance and agreement, which will outline the expectations of the program. The organization must submit a name of a facilitator and his/her qualifications and an agenda or plan for the retreat in advance of the event.

In order to receive the grant, the organization must meet the DEG requirements, submit the one-year report, and a copy of the board manual. The manual can be an existing one that was updated or altered as a result of the grant. The manual should include:

  • Board member job description
  • Committee job descriptions
  • Historical perspective of the organization
  • Mission statement
  • Organizational chart, list of administrators or other pertinent information
  • List of board officers, members, committees and corresponding members (include the purpose of each committee)
  • Schedule of meetings for the coming year
  • Board minutes from the previous year
  • Articles of Incorporation and Bylaws
  • Current budget of institution
  • Special reports or studies
  • PSI will process the grant immediately upon completion of the goals.

One year after receiving the original grant, the institution shall be required to provide a two-page summary of the results of the Design for Effective Governance grant. The summary should be accompanied by a completed Survey of Voluntary support form or indication that it is available online at

Upon completion of the summary, the institution shall receive an additional grant of $1,000, which is to be awarded specifically to the foundation or development department.


PSI has made the Design for Effective Governance program a high priority. PSI is committed to providing guidance and support in addition to the monetary grants. PSI can recommend a facilitator for board training, and be of assistance in planning the event. PSI is also available throughout the year to give consultation on continuing board development, even after the grant activity is completed.

There are also excellent books and resources available, a number of which can be obtained from the PSI Resource Library or from BoardSource. Following are a few books which would be helpful in building a stronger board:

Nonprofit Boards that Work by Maureen Robinson
Extraordinary Board Leadership by Doug Eadie
Fearless Fundraising for Nonprofit Boards by Worth George
To Go Forward, Retreat! By Sandra Hughes
The Nonprofit Board Answer Book by Robert C. Andringa

BoardSource also publishes an excellent series of booklets in the Governance Series:

  • Ten Basic Responsibilities of Nonprofit Boards
  • Financial Responsibilities of Nonprofit Boards
  • Structures and Practices of Nonprofit Boards
  • Fundraising Responsibilities of Nonprofit Boards
  • Legal Responsibilities of Nonprofit Boards
  • The Nonprofit Board’s Role in Setting and Advancing the Mission
  • The Nonprofit Board’s Role in Planning and Evaluation
  • How to Help Your Board Govern More and Manage Less
  • Leadership Roles in Nonprofit Governance

An opportunity for excellence.

Apply for a grant to encourage board excellence for positive change.

DEG Application
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