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Simple (not easy) Steps Towards Great Governance

The Board of Directors can be the bane of an arts and cultural organization’s existence or, in rare circumstances, the proverbial wind beneath its wings.

The Board can lift up an organization’s mission or suck up valuable time, energy and resources without adding anything but fulfilling the requirements of the corporations act.

So how do arts and cultural organizations ensure our Boards are doing what they’re supposed to be doing – hiring and managing lead staff, enacting great governance, providing financial oversight, and ensuring that the organization is adequately resourced?

Many millions of words have been written on the topic so we know it’s not easy to build a highly functioning Board but, in my experience, the most important component is a great Chair.

Beyond leading meetings, a smart, dedicated and passionate Chair sets the tone for the entire Board and by extension, the organization. I’ve heard it said that an organization is only as good as its Chair and I believe that there’s a lot of truth in that statement.

There’s no one size fit all Board Chair but there are some common denominators.

A great Board Chair is the ultimate volunteer, mentor to other Board members and partner to the organization’s lead staff person. They understand the mission of the organization and the role of the Board in achieving this mission. The organization they Chair is a priority in their lives and they inspire others to feel the same way.

So as first step to improve your organization’s performance, spend the time to recruit a great Board Chair and ensure the structures are in place to grow the next one and the one after that. Or in governance and management speak – make sure your succession planning ducks are in a row because once you’ve had a great Board Chair, you’ll never want to go back.

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