Knowledge Centre Blog

Effective Board & Executive Relationships

By Andrew Hetherington.

Do you know why each of your Board members got involved with your organisation? There are probably many reasons, but a primary motivation for Board members is a feeling of importance to the success of an organisation that they admire. Too often, under resourced arts managers regard the Board as a homogenous group with uniform interests. In reality, each Board member has their own reasons for their involvement. Effective arts managers that understand this fact work hard to connect each member of their Board with organisational projects that reflect their interests, skills and priorities.

Marie Mattson, Vice President of Development at the Kennedy Center shared a brief check-list of responsibilities that Board Members have to the Executive of arts organisations and vice-versa.  In Business to Arts, we think talking through these responsibilities with each Board member (particularly with new Board Members) is a great way to engage your board with the mission of your organisation and focus minds on specific projects from the outset.

Responsibilities of Board Members of Arts Organisations to the Executive

  • An interest in and relationship with the organisation
  • Affluence or Influence
  • A willingness to contribute sacrificially to the organisation
  • Willingness to ask difficult questions when required
  • Willingness and ability to communicate enthusiastically with others
  • Willingness to be well informed about operations and goals
  • A sense of urgency

Responsibilities of the Executive of Arts Organisations to the Board

  • Provide clear guidance, structure and legal responsibilities – (how a board member should be a board member)
  • Empower board members
  • Provide them with training
  • Provide appropriate staff support
  • Give them credit for success
  • Accept blame for failure
  • Supply thorough, correct and periodic information

Task: Follow these five action points when working with a Board member on a specific project:

  • Provide the Board member with  a real stake in the project’s success
  • Give reasonable authority/autonomy to the Board member for the project
  • Ask them to report on the project’s status at each Board meeting
  • Support the Board member in their efforts to engage their peers/associates
  • At completion of the project, publicly align the success of the project with the Board member

Additional Reading:

A case-study from David Teevan of Clonmel Junction Festival who talks about how the DeVos Programme has had an impact on the Board culture of the Festival

A Practical Guide for Board Members of Arts Organisations (Arts Council Publication)

Directors – Their Duties and Powers  (Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement Publication)




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