I am not a fan of having numerous standing board committees for arts organizations. But there is one committee that is crucial, and that is carelessly assembled all too often: the governance committee.
As governments worldwide cut their level of subsidy to arts organizations, these same organizations are increasingly turning to the American model of private arts funding. And a substantial amount of this funding is typically given, or raised, by members of the board.
Especially for those arts organizations that are reducing staff, board members must be willing to prioritize their requests, be willing to forego the occasional set or committee minutes or pitch in and write and send a board meeting agenda themselves.
We are living in a very competitive world -- there are so many forms of entertainment available. If we are not interesting to our group of friends and supporters, they have many other places where they can give their money.
If half as much effort that is devoted to trying to fix things was devoted to fundraising, most of the problems facing the organization would disappear. In fact, rarely have I observed a board member trying to take over the fundraising effort!
The CEO of a great nonprofit has to be a "people person," sensitive to the needs, feelings, interests, goals, and communication styles of all those with whom he or she works, from employees and grantees to volunteers and donors.
The Emergency Mayor of Detroit is considering selling off a large portion of the collection of the Detroit Institute of Art to pay off the city's $15 billion debt. Kevyn Orr has said he is investigating whether the collection could be sold to help ease the city's burden of debt.
Whatever the reasons, it remains difficult for many talented women to get a seat at the top table. It's now time to move from the "why" to the "how" and shift gears if we want to prosper and continue to grow.
I know asking for money can be uncomfortable; I know looking for board members or planning an institutional marketing effort can be time-consuming and challenging. But unless one acts on a board development, marketing or fundraising plan, the effort to develop it is wasted.
Those arts patrons, corporations and foundations that care passionately about the future of the arts in America must encourage members of arts boards to seek the training they need and must invest in the training programs required.
Those organizations that mount important art, pursue aggressive marketing campaigns and build their families consistently, create an insurance policy against economic downturns and programmatic failure.