Arts Organization Boards: Maximizing Engagement & Effectiveness

Guest Bloggers & Hosts
Arts & Business Council of Chicago (@ArtsBizChicago)
Kristen Romans, Director of Programs, Board Services & Training
Noemi Garcia, Programs Coordinator

If you had to rate each of your organization’s board members on a scale of 1 to 10, how would they stack up? Would the range between highest and lowest participation be just a few points or is there a significant difference between their levels of engagement? Are there individuals that were once very highly involved but became distant over time and now only do the minimum that is expected (or less)? 

Chances are that your organization has a few (or even just one) great leaders, a few well-meaning but underperforming individuals, and a few that are considered inactive, dead weight, or even detrimental to the success of the organization. What we’ve found at the Arts & Business Council of Chicago through our work with several hundred arts & culture nonprofits each year is that many board members who are underperforming are not clear on what their role is and how they can best contribute to the organization. Individuals are frequently asked to join a board because of their professional background (lawyer, accountant, marketing guru) and hopefully an interest in the work of the organization, but are then provided with very little guidance, orientation, or expectations. Their original zeal wanes after a while and they find themselves participating at a much lower level than they (and you) had originally intended. What we at A&BC suggest is that a little education and structure can go a long way. Telling your board members specifically how they can contribute and helping them track their involvement throughout the year will many times reinvigorate those “floaters” who once showed great promise but became somewhat disengaged as time went on. Our discussion during this chat will include suggestions and tools for how to increase board member involvement and contribution to get as many board members up to a “10 rating” as possible.


  • How many board members does your organization have and what percent would you consider “active”?
  • How would you characterize an active, contributing board member?
  • What does your organization do to keep board members engaged?
  • What is the orientation process for new board members?
  • Do you keep track of ways that board members contribute throughout the year? Projects worked on, committees served, fundraising executed, etc.
  • How does your organization deal with individuals that are not delivering?
  • Does your organization have a “board buddy” or board mentor system in place for new board members? Who on the board is responsible for this process?
  • How would you ask a board member who consistently does not fulfill their obligations to consider stepping off the board, considering that you may want to keep them on your donor/supporter list?

About the Arts & Business Council of Chicago

The Arts & Business Council of Chicago annually supports hundreds of Chicago-area nonprofit arts and culture organizations by providing their management with quality educational, assessment and advisory services, and by partnering them with expert volunteers from the for-profit business sector. From workshops and forums to consulting projects and one-on-one coaching, A&BC offers multiple ways for organizations to gain mastery in the business of the arts.

How do you join the chat?

  • Tune in on Friday, May 25 from 2:00 – 3:00 p.m. Eastern (6:00 p.m. GMT) to participate in the third round of #artsmgtchat!
  • Follow @artsmgtchat and @ArtsBizChicago for questions. You can use TweetChat, Twebevent or your favorite Twitter service to follow the discussion.  Make sure you use the hashtag #artsmgtchat to be included in the discussion.
  • If you are new to our Twitter chat, please check out our Twitter Chat 101 guide.
  • Bring a colleague to this Friday’s #artsmgtchat.
  • Submit questions and ideas to below in the comments section.
  • Tweet this post and share with friends on LinkedIn and Facebook.
  • Join our online community.

6 thoughts on “Arts Organization Boards: Maximizing Engagement & Effectiveness

  1. Pingback: Emerging Leaders on Arts Boards « artsmgtchat

  2. Pingback: 5 Reasons for Emerging Leaders to Join an Arts Board « artsmgtchat

  3. I have limited experience with nonprofit governance outside of the classroom. I’m not sure how to approach these questions except from a more theoretical perspective and based on the little experience I do have. Do you think I will still be able to make a valuable contribution? Suggestions? Thanks!

  4. Pingback: Chat Recap: Arts Organization Boards — Maximizing Engagement & Effectiveness « artsmgtchat

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