This week, I want to switch tracks a bit and talk about the Board of Directors.
As I mentioned in a Tweet last week (@missionparadox), Board members tend to be very easy targets for artistic scorn and ridicule.
They tend to be more financially secure then the artists they work with, which can cause tension. They also have a significant amount of power and influence within the organization, which is another area of tension.
Managing and overcoming these tension is something that separates strong organizations from those that struggle.
One of the best words of wisdom I ever got about Board membership came up when I was doing the typical bitchin' and moanin' about what some folks were and were not doing.
My mentor quickly shut me up by saying . . . "Remember, these people are volunteers."
I had forgotten that. I was so caught up in what I wanted/needed from the Board that I had lost sight of a simple fact:
No one has to join your Board . . . ever.
No one has to give time or energy to your cause . . . ever.
That doesn't excuse Board members who don't live up to expectations, but it did help to put things in perspective.
People volunteer to join Boards. Often they pay for their spot on the Board with time and money. It's always good to remember why they do that.
They do it to be close to the art. They don't do it to manage your accounting, or because they have some sick love of fundraising. They do it because they want to be close to the art.
A strong arts organization goes out of their way to make sure the Board feels close to the art. They explain the artistic process to them. They solicit their opinion AND actually listen to it.
I know the thought of doing that freaks out those who worry that the Board will start making artistic decisions, but it's been my experience that if you set clear boundaries for them . . . most Board members will respect their limits. If they don't, then they need to go.
Spend a little time this week pondering how you can bring the Board closer to the art. Your efforts will be appreciated and you'll have a stronger, more reliable Board as a result of it all.