Sunday, October 12, 2008

Job Description. Part VI- Board of Directors

Who are your board of directors? For many dancers in many companies, it is hard to really get to know these people as they are rarely present on a day-to-day basis. But the role of a board is imperative for a non-profit organization. In fact the public/group governance is one of the requisites set up to become a 501(c)3. (That refers to the legal tax exempt status of a non-profit).

Personally I find it fascinating to know those on my board, they are a window into financial, medical, law and other professions. As the work of serving on a board is volunteer, I commend the work and responsibility that these individuals take on my behalf. They are also ambassadors for the art and as they go about their varied careers.

The boards' responsibilities are established upon the formation of each nonprofit organization and are as varied and unique as each organization. Typically a board sets a meeting schedule monthly or quarterly to oversee the running of the organization. Often there are committees and sub committees to address individual tasks, but again this is all specific to the organization and agenda of the time.

The Alliance of New York State Arts Organizations defines the Board and their responsibilities as follows:

Board of Directors

To do good work, board members or boards need to:
1 . Understand and be committed to the mission statement.
2. Broadly represent the community.
3. Participate in a working committee structure and have assigned responsibilities.
4. Understand and embrace stewardship and governance roles.
5. Understand their administrative role.
6. Have shared leadership responsibilities.
7. Manage change.
8. Develop annual and multi-year action plans. 9. Be self-critical and willing to engage in self-evaluation.
10. Possess the ability to evaluate, cultivate, train and replace leadership.
11. Financially support the organization and participate in the fund-raising process.

1. Understand and be committed to the mission statement. Since board members are the "sales force" of the arts organization, their full understanding and commitment to the mission of the organization is primary. Board members need to fully understand (and be able to communicate to others) the organization's mission. If they do not understand the mission, they will not be able to sell it to anyone else.

2. Broadly represent the community.
It is vital that an arts organization's board broadly represent the community's demographics, its arts groups and individual artists. Community leaders from education, business, industry, unions, the legal sector, local government, chambers of commerce and funders are excellent recruitment sources.

3. Participate in a working committee structure with assigned responsibilities.
Committees enable the board to work in depth in areas such as planning, finance, resource development, nominating, program and marketing. Board committees are established for many reasons: to assume part of the board's work-load; to develop a special expertise that will enable a board to act in a more informed and responsible manner on an issue; to save time; sustain a tradition; or handle a continuing organizational responsibility. Committee members are assigned responsibilities suited to their personal and professional strengths and interests. This insures success. Success, in turn, insures the board member's personal satisfaction and encourages their continued commitment. An effective committee is clear about its responsibilities and relationship to others and is flexible. To work well, a committee needs clear direction; an annual schedule; a specific statement of its charge; and clear and concise operating procedures.

4. Understand and embrace stewardship and governance roles.
The primary role of the board is to serve as the organization's governing body. The board is charged with establishing policy to be carried out through an administrative staff. Board members have a stewardship role: to speak on behalf of the organization; to promote its programs and services; to represent the organization in social and business and legislative meetings; to help support the organization financially, as well as in an advisory capacity; and to participate in the fund-raising efforts of the organization.

5. Understand their administrative role.
By-laws help clarify the role of the board. They outline the overall structure of the board and the organization. They define how an organization operates, and its parameters and they do this in relation to both the board and the administration. The line of responsibility separating the board (as the governing body) and the administration (as the body that implements policy) is clearly stated in the by-laws. The by-laws are the first area declaring this important division of responsibility. Personnel policies and manuals are the second area defining this division.

6. Have shared leadership responsibilities.
Shared leadership refers to a well-balanced assignment of roles and responsibilities. If the board has a strong committee structure, clearly defined job descriptions for chairs and committee members, as well as defined staff roles, the achievement of shared leadership should naturally follow. Problems can occur when, for example, the executive committee is taking action, where the full board should be taking responsibility, or when the board becomes too involved with the day-to-day activities of the organization and interferes with the jobs of staff members.

7. Manage change.
The capacity to manage change is critical to the health, success and growth of an arts service organization. If an organization is serving its constituency to the fullest extent, change is certain to occur. It is therefore important for the board of directors to recognize that change will inevitably occur within a healthy organization. A strong, flexible board will recognize the roads that lead to advancement and the achievement of the organization's mission and will lead the organization forward along these roads.

8. Develop annual and multi-year action plans.
With a clear and concise mission statement as a starting point, an arts organization is ready to develop both annual and multi-year plans to guide its activities. Input from the staff will provide the board with important criteria for making decisions, as will program evaluations, organizational assessments and audits. A well-written annual and long-range plan will incorporate both programmatic and financial outlooks. Annual and multi-year plans are only as valuable as the action they inspire. During the planning process, the board may take advantage of the expertise of the organization's staff and to provide information on the value and success of programs and services. The board may also wish to call on outside counsel to provide objective information that can help guide the actions of the organization and assist with evaluation processes.

9. Be self-critical and willing to engage in self-evaluation.
The capacity to engage in self-evaluation and the ability to redirect energy and focus when required is essential. One of the primary roles of a planning committee is to provide the board with the opportunity to regularly examine the activities and actions of the organization. Evaluation is needed to determine what modification or change, if any, is necessary.

10. Possess the ability to evaluate, cultivate, train and replace leadership.
The board can provide itself and each trustee with opportunities for evaluation. Evaluation happens in different ways. Through orientations and retreats, for example, the board can evaluate its own operation, as well as provide trustees with self-evaluation tools. Boards should provide training opportunities, internally through regularly scheduled orientations, and externally, through programs, workshops, seminars, lectures, books, articles and newsletters. Boards benefit from having a nominating or board development committee. This important committee is charged with the responsibility for evaluating the performance of the board and determining the type of board expertise needed to carry forth the organization's mission.

11. Financially support the organization and participate in the fund-raising process.
This is one of the most critically important roles of the trustee. Part of the stewardship role is to promote the arts organization to others and offer them the opportunity to assist financially. While each board member should support the organization within their individual means, each trustee in recognition of the honor that service to the organization bestows should stretch within their limits to fulfill their financial obligation.


geovani said...

Arts organizations should be incorporated in New York State. Any organization desiring tax-exempt status from the Internal Revenue Service must incorporate as a not-for-profit organization (usually under Section 501 (c) (3) of the IRS Code and file incorporation papers at the state capitol. These papers should be in the name of the corporation and should include:
The name of the corporation.
Location of the principal offices.
Purpose of the organization.

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Brittany Fridenstine-Keefe said...

This is true and valuable information. Thanks for reading and commenting.

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