Revisiting Agency and Stewardship Theories

Ruth Bernstein, University of Washington Tacoma
Kathleen Buse
Diana Bilimoria


Using principal-agent theories, this study examined differences in the perceptions of nonprofit chief executive officers (CEOs) and board chairs on key governance aspects, including board performance, leadership, satisfaction with diversity, and board meetings. Using data from the CEOs and board chairs of 474 nonprofit organizations, we found statistically significant differences in the governance perceptions of these leaders of nonprofit organizations. The findings provide support for an agency theory explanation about the differing interests of principals (board chairs) and agents (CEOs). The findings suggest that these two sets of nonprofit actors frequently operate from different perspectives, potentially affecting the governance of their organizations.