For 17 years Arts & Business? volunteering schemes have enabled arts organisations to get access to high-value strategic, financial, operational and training know-how from business professionals ? for free.
One of these schemes, the Board Bank, helps arts organisations to identify and recruit business professionals to serve as non-executive Board members, explains Jessica Stockford. The Board Bank comprises a pool of business managers, trained by Arts & Business and available to any professional not-for-profit arts organisation or museum wanting to find talented and enthusiastic volunteers to serve on their Boards. The needs of each organisation are considered before any Board Bank recruit is proposed.
Most non-profit arts organisations and museums in the UK are charities and governed by non-executive Boards. This governance structure has changed little, yet the policy, financial, legal, employment and advocacy challenges that Boards address have significantly increased. A Board of directors needs to be pro-active, risk-managing, legislation sensitive and ambassadorial. The legal responsibilities of each Board are mapped out and more or less understood, but there is less clarity about how they fulfil the variety of tasks, which lie outside of this legal framework.
The members of the ?perfect Board? may remain a fantasy, but there are ways that arts organisations can strive for an effective, dynamic, committed and engaged Board. Ensuring that you have the right mix of skills, expertise and knowledge on your Board is the key to successful governance. You need to consider geographical location, interest in artform and ability to commit when recruiting. A new Board member with little excitement for the work of the organisation who merely wants to further his or her non-executive career will offer little of lasting benefit. When you involve the right individuals, their impact can lead to the managerial success and stability that all arts organisations crave.
The Beatrice Royal Gallery in Southampton was looking for a business professional with legal, marketing and personnel expertise to join their board. Sarah Bell, solicitor at Moore & Blatch, eventually intends to become a partner in the Southampton law firm but felt she needed some management experience. Her employers joined Arts & Business for staff to gain access to its Board Bank and both develop their Board expertise and engage in their passion for the arts. Arts & Business introduced Sarah to the Beatrice Royal and she joined the Board.
The Board at Beatrice Royal is encouraged to be ?hands-on? and Sarah has started as a volunteer at the Gallery in the evenings. She has also persuaded her employers to hold corporate networking events in the Gallery, bringing new audiences and business to the Beatrice Royal and creating a unique experience for Moore & Blatch?s clients.
Motivation for joining an arts Board varies enormously, from general CV enhancement, management experience to sheer altruism. As a result, it can be difficult for Board members to find a balance between their role as a supporter of the company and that of an objective watchdog. Support of, and appreciation for, the work of the organisation is a key element in the ?person specification? for any Board member, but this should not be uncritical.
Like many arts organisations, Sutton Performing Arts Network (SPAN) and its chair, Allan Hester, finds Board recruitment frustrating. Advertising in national press elicited four Board members, all of whom left after four months. SPAN is a charitable trust going through a particularly challenging period. Strong Board direction is needed to guide it through this transition. Angela Robertshaw, a Surrey based marketing director for Legal & General, wanted a long-term commitment with an arts organisation. She completed the Arts & Business induction covering the role and responsibilities of a board member and was matched with SPAN.
Angela remains ?struck by how different this environment is ? the tremendous enthusiasm and commitment of the people involved is infectious. Being on the Board has moved me outside my comfort zone, it has challenged me and is very different from what I normally do.? Angela is supporting the organisation through this difficult time using her corporate skills.
These examples illustrate how Boards involve people from a diverse range of backgrounds bringing a wide range of skills. Despite this, Board membership of arts organisations often struggles to represent the very communities they serve, and Arts & Business is striving hard to tackle this form of exclusion.
Jessica Stockford works for Arts & Business South East. To find out more about the Board Bank and other Arts & Business support for arts organisations and their Boards contact Felicity Bunt t: 020 7970 6440
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