NAIS Jobs-to-Be-Done Research: What are Trustees Seeking When They Join Independent School Boards?


Cover of Research Report PDFIndependent school boards of trustees are responsible for ensuring that the institution fulfills its mission and uses its resources wisely. Given the many important roles trustees play in sustaining a school’s success, the board needs to have the right people around the table. How can your board make certain that it is mission-aligned and diverse in perspective? How can you convince busy and talented community members that they belong on your board of trustees? How can you keep trustees engaged and satisfied while working for the future of the school?

NAIS conducted research to understand what trustees are looking for when they decide to join the board of an independent school. Using the Jobs-to-Be-Done methodology, NAIS uncovered
three Jobs—a combination of context, motivations, and desired outcomes—that trustees are hoping to fulfill by joining a board. The following report presents findings from the study and shares tips to help you understand, attract, and retain trustees.

Executive Summary

The Jobs-to-Be-Done (JTBD) research methodology is based on the theory that consumers do not purchase a product or service for the sake of it, but rather they “hire” or “fire” a product or service to fulfill a particular need, or a “job to be done.”

The decision of trustees to join the board of an independent school can also be understood through this lens. Trustees must be able to function as a unit, consider multiple viewpoints and perspectives, and take decisive action on big issues facing their institution. However, members of a board may have joined for very different reasons, and they may be expecting different outcomes from their service.

Jobs-to-Be-Done research seeks to uncover the context and the desired outcomes people are seeking when they make a certain decision. In our research with trustees who recently joined boards of independent schools, we investigated what their actions revealed about the decisions they made, as these can differ from what they
say they value. We also looked into the trade-offs they were willing to make to achieve their goals.

These factors were then analyzed and clustered together to identify similarities across different schools. These groupings became the Jobs to Be Done presented in this report. Each Job is an archetype that explains common desires and motivations for trustees in similar circumstances. The descriptions can help boards understand the motivations of potential trustees and better attract and retain new members.

This research project included interviews with trustees who began their tenure on an independent school board within the past month, putting them in the best position to speak to their decision-making process as they decided to join the board. Interviewees came from different backgrounds, different parts of the country, and different types of schools.

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