WBEZ | Board of Directors http://www.wbez.org/tags/board-directors Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en How not to handle succession in the arts http://www.wbez.org/blog/onstagebackstage/2011-11-15/how-not-handle-succession-arts-94084 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/photo/2011-November/2011-11-16/5988066000_ecca59b4c2.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>There could be worse ways to handle succession planning than <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2011/11/14/arts/dance/edward-villella-and-the-miami-city-ballet-board.html?nl=todaysheadlines&amp;emc=tha28">the one chosen by the Miami City Ballet</a>, but it would be hard to think of one. The Board of Directors, concerned that the ballet company would collapse when its famous artistic director Edward Villella retired, decided to test its own theory by forcing him out before he was ready to leave. Some Board members blame the outcome on Mr. Villella, who apparently refused to greet several of them at the company's gala; but it's hard to blame him when one of them called a meeting with him for the purpose of handing him a book on succession planning.&nbsp;</p><p style="text-align: center; "><img alt="" class="caption" height="333" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2011-November/2011-11-16/5988066000_ecca59b4c2.jpg" title="The Miami City Ballet and the Cleveland Orchestra in 2009 (Flickr/Knight Foundation)" width="500"></p><p>The <em>Times</em> article reaches for the classic suits-versus-artists narrative, saying that Villella's ouster reflected the Board's determination to place business stability above artistic product; but that's unfair. The Board is responsible for the continued health of the company, and a failure to consider new leadership when the current leader is 75 would be a dereliction of duty. But <a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1fuDDqU6n4o">what we've got here is failure to communicate</a>.&nbsp;</p><p><a href="http://leisureblogs.chicagotribune.com/the_theater_loop/2010/07/dennis-zacek-victory-gardens-retire.html">As the Victory Gardens Board learned back in 2000</a>, you don't call in the company's artistic engine and hand him his walking papers--or even the sort of broad hint contained in the gift of a book about succession planning. You're talking to someone about his life's work and his passion, and you can't talk to him as if he were a CEO who had been recompensed all these years in cash and expected to be recompensed the same way in retirement. An artistic director who is compelled to retire--and yes, indeed, some of them need to be--has to be offered a form of compensation congruent with what he's been receiving up until now, something involving artistic control--even if it's only the control inherent in leading the search for his own successor.&nbsp;</p><p>And even if the artistic director's retirement creates the opportunity for the Board to step into its proper role of leadership--say, supervising the managing director instead of having the artistic director do so--that's an opportunity to be pursued once the new artistic director begins. From the Board's standpoint, having the managing and artistic directors report co-equally is a way to lighten the artistic director's load while assuring that the Board itself receives comprehensive information. But from the standpoint of the incumbent artistic director, it's a slap in the face, and suggests that the Board wants to interpose a business person (and a businessperson's veto) between the artist and his vision.</p><p>Of course the Board IS the boss of the company, including the artistic director. But the most effective bosses wear their power lightly, in cooperation rather than conflict with the artists they mean to be serving. By this measure, the Board of the Miami City Ballet just fell on its face.</p><p>A word to the wise Boards around Chicago's artistic community.&nbsp;</p></p> Wed, 16 Nov 2011 15:00:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/blog/onstagebackstage/2011-11-15/how-not-handle-succession-arts-94084 The five faux essentials to a successful nonprofit, and the necessity of boards http://www.wbez.org/blog/onstagebackstage/2011-10-24/praise-having-board-directors-93380 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/photo/2011-October/2011-10-24/boardofdirectors_flickr_Metro Transportation Library and Archive.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>A new <a href="http://www.ssireview.org/opinion/entry/five_investments_you_can_skip">piece in the Stanford Social Innovation Review</a> argues that there are five things&nbsp;considered essential to the success of nonprofits that are, in fact, wastes of time. The author is&nbsp;wrong about every one of them (Don’t use volunteers? Skip social media?) but he’s especially&nbsp;wrong about Boards of Directors, of which he says,</p><blockquote><p>There is a tremendously high fixed cost to training your board to facilitate donations (in kind or cash). If your board can’t generate a large part of your budget (say, 20 percent), you are likely to find them getting in the way of fundraising success...</p></blockquote><p>I started thinking about this in connection with theaters when I chatted last week with the chair of&nbsp;a local theater Board, who was extolling the virtues of the master-carpenter Board member&nbsp;who’d built the theater and the advertising-executive Board member who’d created its awareness campaign. “We started out with all attorneys and CPAs,” he said, “and then we figured out that we needed people who could actually do something useful.”</p><p style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="caption" height="350" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2011-October/2011-10-24/boardofdirectors_flickr_Metro Transportation Library and Archive.jpg" title="A very old board of directors. (Flickr/Metro Transportation Library and Archive)" width="500"></p><p style="text-align: left;">Very funny, and he’s right, of course, that Boards should include a diversity of skills. But here’s&nbsp;the deal: if you regard any member of your Board as unable to do something useful, or the Board as a whole as a waste of time, that means you’re wasting your Board. These volunteers who can represent your performance group to the wider community, and who’ve pledged to help you secure the resources you need to go on performing, are absolutely essential to your success. Does anyone imagine Chicago Shakespeare would have a space on Navy Pier without its Board’s efforts and connections? Or that TimeLine would be raking in the accolades without a group of people devoted to providing the infrastructure for the company’s excellent work? There are dozens of other examples, and very few counter-examples–because the companies with lousy Boards simply aren’t around anymore.<br> <br> Yes, of course you have to train them–no one is born knowing how to be a nonprofit Board member, and you can’t just say, “Raise money” and leave them to their own devices. But training them is remarkably easy–most Board members, after all, want to do a great job–and if you think you don’t have the expertise to do it yourself, ask the Arts Work Fund for a grant to bring in a trainer. (I have nothing to gain from giving this advice: though I do this kind of work, I don’t do it for theater or dance companies.) Every member of your Board can do something useful; it’s your job (Managing/Artistic Director) to make sure they know what it is and how they’re supposed to do it.<br> <br> Some years ago the Whitney Museum received a remarkable gift from its Board of Directors: a significant painting from each of their private collections. I was praising Boards to a skeptical theater manager using this particular example, and she said, “Why didn’t I think of that? We’ll just run downstairs and haul out our Monets.” But whether your Board is big money or just big effort, it’s the shoulders you're standing on to reach the stage.<br> <br> So: have you hugged your Board today?</p></p> Mon, 24 Oct 2011 11:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blog/onstagebackstage/2011-10-24/praise-having-board-directors-93380