Chat Recap: Arts Organization Boards — Maximizing Engagement & Effectiveness

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How do you engage board members? What qualifications should an organization look for in a board member? These are some of the questions the arts community asked during #artsmgtchat last Friday. We were fortunate to have two fabulous hosts from the Arts & Business Council of Chicago (Kristen Romans, Director of Programs, Board Services/Training and Noemi Garcia, Programs Coordinator) who guided the conversation around arts organization boards and provided strategies/best practices. Here are the chat results (courtesy of hashtracking.com):

  • Total Tweets: 244
  • Number of Contributors: 21
  • 123,000 Impressions
  • Reach: 14,900 

A quick recap of the conversation:

Q1. How many board members does your organization have and what percent would you consider “active”?

@LindaInPhoenix: org 1: 7 (6 active), org 2: 24 (10 very active; 14 active).

@ASC_Amy: At @shakespearectr we have 23 board members and I would consider 95% active.

@AllstarAltman: Our Board currently has 4 members who work hard to balance their professional commitments with their passion for the #arts.

@ArtsBizChicago: Most of our arts clients have 5-12 board members and usually 75% are active.

Q2. How would you characterize an active, contributing board member?

@AllstarAltman: Energetic, organized, proactive and VERY strong networking skills. Esp. important 4 young arts orgs just starting out.

@AllstarAltman: I’m going to add Creative. #arts programming is tough, and often done with little money. You want creative ppl involved.

@ASC_Amy: Actively participating in committee work, org = 1 of top 3 philanthropic priorities ($), actively introducing others 2 org.

Q3. What does your organization do to keep board members engaged?

@LindaInPhoenix: Large org bd just adopted a removal policy to incentivize better meeting attendance. (stick, not carrot approach).

@AllstarAltman: Talk to them. Ask them what they like, what do they like to do. and then help them do it.

@ASC_Amy: Monthly cmtee mtgs, monthly letter from MD (abt to start), 1-on-1 lunches w/ Chair or MD, cultivation recep b4 each Bd mtg.

Q4. What is the orientation process for new board members? Anyone using “board buddies”?

@LindaInPhoenix: Same 4 me MT @artsmgtchat: A4. When I joined small #arts org as board member, had no orientation process. I learned as I went.

@ASC_Amy:Orientation the afternoon b4 first bd mtg, bring them on in a “class” of 3-4 at a time, YES! to “board buddies.”

@ASC_Amy:Our orientation = overview of program (prod, educ, tour), history, financials, bd promise, discussion of comtee job descrip.

@ArtsBizChicago: Have current board put together an orientation packet, meeting with ED, then Board Chair.

Q5. How does your organization deal with individuals that are not delivering? How would you kindly ask them to step down?

@AllstarAltman: I ask, “what inspires you?” and use that chat to generate ideas and engagement.

@AudienceDevSpec: I witnessed an Exec. Dir diplomatically offer a better role for the board member. It turned out fine.

Several individuals raised these interesting questions during the discussion:

@CStarek: I’m curious to know if ppl think small or large bds are more effective?

@LindaInPhoenix: Depends on function of board – operational or philanthropic or mixed.
@TRGArts: Depends on the size and lifestage of the org.
@ArtsBizChicago: The # is less important than the level of engagement, but the more people you have, the more the work can be divided.

@QuestTheatre: What is the proper way to engage and solicit prospective Board members?

@ASC_Amy: Again, depends on prospect. We have receptions to introduce & cultivate new board members, some cities have …
@ArtsBizChicago: Look within your existing donors & loyal patrons first. Assign board members a small list each to reach out to.
@ASC_Amy: Some better cultivated thru indiv conversations than group settings. always start w/ strong interest in art form.

@KathleenHeuer: What kind of qualifications should a board member have, do you think? Does it depend on org?

@ArtsBizChicago: Depends on size and needs of the organization (fundraising vs. working board).
@ASC_Amy: We have evolving list of needed skills on our Board. Inventory what expertise u hv, identify what u need.

@TRGArts: I have heard of/worked with orgs that put “term limits” on board memberships. Very effective–anyone doing this on #artsmgtchat?

@CStarek: Term limits seem to be a good thing, generally max of two 3-year terms…thoughts?
@ASC_Amy: Yes, we allow 2 3-yr terms, then 1 yr off. Some funders are beginning to insist on term limits.
@ArtsBizChicago: 2-3 is pretty standard, 2 can be easier for sm grps

@QuestTheatre: Is it bad for Boards members to be on the Board of multiple arts orgs?

@ArtsBizChicago: Usually not as long as all groups know and there are no conflicts of interest w/ fundraising
@LindaInPhoenix: Only if there’s some conflic between the orgs. Many people serve on multiple boards successfully

Thank you to the following arts tweeps for participating in this chat – look forward to seeing you again!

@artsbizchicago
@cstarek
@asc_amy
@allstaraltman
@lindainphoenix
@trgarts
@audiencedevspec
@kathleenheuer
@questtheatre
@artsdiplomacyla
@emergingarts
@eallaorg

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