This paper sets out a theoretical framework for analyzing board governance, and describes an empirical study of corporate governance practices in a subset of non-profit organizations (hospices in the UK). It examines how practices in hospice governance compare with what is known about effective board working. We found that key strengths of hospice boards included a strong focus on the mission and the finances of the organizations, and common weaknesses included a lack of involvement in strategic matters and a lack of confidence, and some nervousness about challenging the organization on the quality of clinical care. Finally, the paper offers suggestions for theoretical development particularly in relation to board governance in non-profit organizations. It develops an engagement theory for boards which comprises a triadic proposition of high challenge, high support and strong grip.