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 Post subject: Boards of Directors - Woes and Perils
PostPosted: Fri Jun 02, 2000 9:46 am 
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This discussion arises from an observation that the current Board of the National Ballet of Canada (cf., the various Glasco/Kudelka threads) is now comprised of twelve members. From a U.S. perspective, this would appear to be a shockingly small number of members for an organization with a multimillion dollar annual budget and a dominating arts presence on the national scene. In my U.S. derived experience, boards of midsized organizations ($1-5 million annual budget) would have, say, 25 members. Major organizations might have anywhere from 30-50 (or more) members. Twelve strikes me as a common size for an Executive Committee of a major arts organization.<P>This observation brought a rejoinder from a non-U.S.-based person that twelve was rather a standard size for British Commonwealth boards.<P>This response reminded me that there are some fundamental differences in perception of the role and function of boards of directors in different cultures. Some of these differences may be driven by the forces that gave rise to the organizations in their beginnings.<P>In the U.S., established arts institutions (major symphony orchestras, opera companies, ballet companies) have tended to arise as the result of efforts by an individual or a group of individuals. By contrast, in Canada, arts organizations have been heavily subsidized by government entities. Now, at the turn of the 21st century, shifting sociopolitical forces are causing some paradigm shifts.<P>A negative consequence of the U.S. model is the popular perception that the arts are (and perhaps ought to remain) the province of the wealthy few. A recurring refrain here in Seattle anytime a need arises is "Let Bill Gates or Paul Allen pay for it." ("Don't ask *us* -- ask *them*.") There is a great deal of public resistance to the notion that the arts benefit all of society and that society as a whole should assist in their sustenance.<P>The converse would appear to be true in Canada, where a diminuitive population covers a vast territory and former governments have determined that the arts (and a national broadcasting system) are fundamental requisites toward the provision of some sense of national identity and unity. With a healthy chunk of funding thus assured, there is less need for mammoth board development.<P>U.S. boards need to be large and representative of diverse interests, because the paramount activities of these boards tend to circulate around getting money in the door -- whether by earned income or contributed income. Hence, the primacy of the use of the board in development (fundraising) and marketing (drawing the ticket-buying public).<P>The duty of members of such U.S. arts boards is arduous. Asking people for money is always a strain. And the demand to produce significant contributed income is omnipresent. Fundraising and fundraising activities dominate meeting discussions. Most boards have minimum membership requirements. (The Seattle standards, with which I am most familiar, seem to decree a $500 minimum annual contribution per board member for a midsized organization. PNB appears to have a $1,500 minimum annual contribution, based on matching board members' names to their contribution categories in the most recent program.) For performing arts organizations, a pair of premium priced season tickets is also a part of the bargain -- although many board members are spotty in their own attendance at the actual performances.<P>Locally, a twelve-person board would be derided by the arts funding community as lacking sufficient prestige to ensure organizational credibility and a broad base of support. The command performance before an inquisitional funding panel -- an annual ritual familiar to those of us who have run this course -- is always peppered with questions about what the board is doing to expand its membership. (When board members are not attending to direct fundraising or marketing activities, we are expected to be making connections that will translate into new board members joining the organization.) It goes without saying that all of these activities are very time-intensive, uncompensated, and not very well appreciated or understood by the general public or -- in many cases -- the direct beneficiaries who are employed by the organizations. Burnout rates are high on these boards.<P>Canada (and, it would appear from current commentaries, the U.K.) is currently having a great deal of difficulty with the fact that the state support that has allowed major arts organizations to become established and to flourish to the extent that they have done, is being eliminated by a political shift toward lowered tax rates, fewer social safety nets, deficit elimination, etc. Concomitantly, there appears to be a distinct lag between recognizing the reality of declining state support and acting effectively on the need to ramp up individual and corporate support for these organizations. Numbers of individual contributors are small by U.S. standards and the amounts contributed are also comparatively small. Notwithstanding these deficits, "U.S-style fundraising" is a line that is often uttered dripping with contempt in Anglophile circles.<P>I want to emphasize that am not trying to say that one system is better than another; nor do I want to provoke a discussion on the merits/demerits of state support of the arts. Rather, my purpose in this discussion is to elicit cross-cultural commentary on the role and function of governing boards in arts organizations, and how they might be made more effective.<p>[This message has been edited by Francis Timlin (edited June 02, 2000).]


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 Post subject: Re: Boards of Directors - Woes and Perils
PostPosted: Fri Jun 02, 2000 12:13 pm 
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Francis<P>Your post was so thoughtful and provacative that it bears reading a couple of more times before reflection and response, which I will do. I did want to thank you for a wonderful effort on a topic that I (as a Bd member, never a dancer) see right on the money for me.<P>More to follow...<BR>


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 Post subject: Re: Boards of Directors - Woes and Perils
PostPosted: Fri Jun 02, 2000 3:11 pm 
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Amen to Shag's remarks. When I'm back in the UK I shall check the position with the various Dance Company and venue Boards, before commenting on the points raised in detail. At first sight, the article does ring true.


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 Post subject: Re: Boards of Directors - Woes and Perils
PostPosted: Fri Jun 02, 2000 6:24 pm 
Francis, by the way, will you come to Hong Kong during the PNB's tour in late July?


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 Post subject: Re: Boards of Directors - Woes and Perils
PostPosted: Fri Jun 02, 2000 9:05 pm 
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Francis,<BR>excellent run down on the boards on the usa.<BR>I have appeared in front of the BW board, many years ago. The AD wanted to do something against the tradition of open call for children's roles in Nutcracker. It was through petitioning the 30+ member board that we as a community were able to block the AD's proposal.<BR>It does seem like European AD's who have never had to answer to the board for certain decisions, have a difficult time making the adjustments.<BR>They are used to the qovn't subsidies, and don't think they are subject to the financial requirements of the board. And the amt. of moneys spent therefore.<BR><P>------------------<BR>bek

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 Post subject: Re: Boards of Directors - Woes and Perils
PostPosted: Sun Jun 04, 2000 3:33 am 
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hi bek! it's great to see you here because i enjoyed some of your posts written BEFORE i came to this board, but haven't seen you around more recently...<P>please, what does BW stand for in your post?<P>in my experience in england and australia, artistic directors are even MORE answerable to boards - but the boards have a different composition and a slightly different function. <P>i think it would be fair to say that the principle is, that strictly speaking, they SHOULD not 'interfere' in artistic matters - but they have opinions, and generally i think it DOES go as far as 'interference'! (of course, exactly what defines 'interference' depends on how their roles are defined in that particular company board structure to start with.)<P>also, it has been the usual thing to have an artistic director at the helm of a company, who has a business manager subservient to him. both are answerable to the board.<P>however, a recent innovation -which i question myself- is having a CEO on the same level as, or superior in the hierarchy to, the artistic director. west australian ballet (which is the ballet company where i live) have gone this route recently, and i don't believe it's the right way to go. (that's NO comment on the people in this particular situation - but rather that in principle, i think it's wrong.) <P>but maybe i'm wrong ...i don't know. my gut feeling is to be uncomfortable with a business rather than an artistic person at the helm.<BR>

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 Post subject: Re: Boards of Directors - Woes and Perils
PostPosted: Sun Jun 04, 2000 9:38 pm 
Actually the CEO of the Hong Kong Ballet is similar in rank to the Artistic Director, if not higher.


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 Post subject: Re: Boards of Directors - Woes and Perils
PostPosted: Tue Jun 06, 2000 5:05 am 
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francis, this quote could just as easily describe australia, as i'm sure you realise:<P>"The converse would appear to be true in Canada, where a diminuitive population covers<BR>a vast territory and former governments have determined that the arts (and a national<BR>broadcasting system) are fundamental requisites toward the provision of some sense of national identity and unity."<P>however, with reference to your following 2 sentences, NO funding is "assured" ANY MORE - things are getting very dicey, and there is increasing pressure to find private sponsors - but without the benefit of the tax incentives which you have in the united states.<P>also re board members, the idea of people PAYING to become board members is extrenmely wierd to me. here, it is an honour to be earned, in the sense that you have to be invited or elected -BUT unfortunately it always looks like a closed circle of 'friends', whose main virtue is that they know someone! some have business connections, some don't. they would be pretty good about attending first nights. and i'm sure that those who take their task seriously , would put in lots of unpaid hours, as you say.<P>can i ask, when you refer to an executive comittee: WHAT do THEY do? maybe THEY are more like OUR boards?

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 Post subject: Re: Boards of Directors - Woes and Perils
PostPosted: Tue Jun 06, 2000 9:29 am 
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Grace, no, I have never been a board member at PNB. I have been (and continue to be) a board member of several other arts organizations, the largest of which was an Equity theatre company with an annual budget of $1.2 million. Not in PNB's $12 million league, but large enough to be considered a significant player in the Seattle arts scene, in any event.<P>Generally, an Executive Committee is comprised of the officers plus the chairs of the standing operating committees (e.g., fund development, board development, finance, marketing, etc.) of the board. Some boards may elect members to the Executive Committee on an "at large" basis. Generally, the specific terms for membership on the Executive Committee are spelled out in the organization's by-laws, and may vary somewhat. A typical function of the Executive Committee is to serve as a forum for discussion of issues that would take too much time in a full board meeting. Executive Committees often serve as the clearing point for what items will be up for discussion and vote at the next full board meeting. It is also an early warning system for issues and problems that may be occurring within the membership of various committees. When an organization is functioning under guidelines of an adopted strategic plan, the Executive Committee may be the "quality control" point of the plan; the point at which committee chairs are held accountable for progress (or non-progress) toward meeting their strategic goals.<P>Parenthetically, the BW in bek's post refers to Ballet West, a company with which bek and I are both familiar, in Salt Lake City, Utah.<P>Kevin, I very much wish that I had the budget to be able to tag along with PNB to HK in July; alas, no. (I know of a few who are, however.) The company members are very much looking forward to their two weeks there!


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 Post subject: Re: Boards of Directors - Woes and Perils
PostPosted: Tue Jun 06, 2000 11:44 am 
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Further on the subject of requiring minimum financial contributions from board members: the thought is that this represents leadership by example and provides an overall boost to the organization's credibility in the eyes of other "investors," e.g., corporate contributors, foundations, and other individual donors. It would be very awkward for a board member who does not contribute financially to approach others to give money. Corporate and foundation supporters always inquire about the level of contributed support by board members as an indication of the level of involvement and commitment of the board. On the individual contributions level, current fundraising practice indicates that the most effective "ask" is the "peer ask." In other words, someone who has given $500 should have credibility in asking someone else to give $500, etc.


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 Post subject: Re: Boards of Directors - Woes and Perils
PostPosted: Mon Jun 12, 2000 7:43 am 
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Well I still have't been able to do the research that I wanted to as this long holiday (will it never end!) has kept me away from my books and programmes. But some first thoughts anyway about the situation in the UK. <P>Rambert Dance has a Board of about 12 and I think this is the situation for most of the dance and dance related entities. The primary function is governance of the company and not fund raising, although one or two members may be there for that reason. The rest will be there for their specialised knowledge of the sector/management/ their connections.<P>However, when a major fund raising event is being organised, a board may well be set up specially for the event and this may have 20-30 people on it. The majority will be there for their fund-raising muscle, along the lines of the US model.<P>By and large, UK dance companies have historically raised relatively little money from private and commercial sources and will often say it is a difficult process. However, the ROH, through the tenacious and exceedingly wealthy Vivien Duffield, have been very successful. So have Northern Ballet Theatre who have an excellent and remunerative relationship with a High St. financial institution.<P>Modern Dance companies have much more trouble raising money as the prospects for corporate entertainment are so much less. Even Rambert Dance Comapny struggles in this respect and you can get your name in their programme for donating a rather small amount.<P>Overall, I suspect that the UK dance companies could learn quite a lot from the US in terms of fund raising, particularly now that the tax breaks in the UK have been made more like those in the US. <P>When it comes to governance, I'm sure that i wouldn't want more than about 12 involved, otherwise the meetings would become very difficult. I know of one dance organisation which would like to cut their Board from 20 to 12 to make the meetings more manageable. How on earth they manage in the US boards beats me, unless the 'main' board is rally a rubber-stamping of Executive Board reccommendations. <BR>


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 Post subject: Re: Boards of Directors - Woes and Perils
PostPosted: Tue Jun 13, 2000 10:18 pm 
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I agree with Francis that being on the board is an arduous undertaking, primarily in regards to $$$. Take for example the board of the Graham company. If they had voted to not cease operations, they would have become responsible for the mounting debts. For reasons such as this, many board members would rather resign than face the financial consequences.<P>And because boards are responsible for the fundraising, a few board members have been known to assert themselves unfairly in artistic matters...


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 Post subject: Re: Boards of Directors - Woes and Perils
PostPosted: Thu Jun 15, 2000 10:49 am 
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I don't have a problem with the structure here in the US, if it is executed properly.<P>To have an executive director, general manager or CEO at the same rank as the artistic director frees up the artistic director to focus on the artistic matters. Additionally, if the executive director is ranked as highly as the artistic director instead of being subservient to him, then it would not be seen as an insult if he meets with the funders and the corporate sponsors. The position of the executive director works well if both individuals understand the dynamics of the partnership.<P>To have the artistic director be answerable to the board is effective in keeping an arrogant artistic director in tow. It creates a good system of checks and balances as we tend to like very much here in the US. However, in a lopsided board, where one or two individuals contribute more than everyone else, these board members will usually have more influence than all the others and the voting becomes nothing more than a rubber stamping of these very wealthy board members. It also gives these individuals special access to the artistic director, if they choose to take advantage of it, making the artistic director responsible to themselves as individuals instead of the board as a whole.<P>So, there are advantages and disadvantages to this system as there are in everything.


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 Post subject: Re: Boards of Directors - Woes and Perils
PostPosted: Sat Jun 17, 2000 11:49 am 
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Hi Albrecht!<P>It is more crucial today than ever and even more crucial in the future, to have an equal Artistic/Administrative separation.<BR>The specialisation nessesary for both functions is so distinct and in my opinion, the exception to find - if ever regarding excellence. I agree with you in that they must have the same rank.<P>I believe it is essentiel to ensure a system of checks and balances are in place, also. Transparency is nessesary. An artistic director needs to be able to involve and stimulate the individual board members genuine interest, without involving interference. But as you inferred, each situation depends on the people involved and every situation is unique - and ever evolving.


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 Post subject: Re: Boards of Directors - Woes and Perils
PostPosted: Fri Jun 23, 2000 2:27 am 
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this article contains, and perhaps contrasts (i can't say 'cause i haven't had time to read it all yet!) the views of the outgoing chair of the board of ENB, lady harlech, and the incoming chair, angela rippon:<BR> <A HREF="http://www.telegraph.co.uk:80/et?ac=002545730716141&rtmo=3mx3Kw3M&atmo=tttttttd&pg=/et/00/6/10/btripp04.html" TARGET=_blank>http://www.telegraph.co.uk:80/et?ac=002545730716141&rtmo=3<BR>mx3Kw3M&atmo=tttttttd&pg=/et/00/6/10/btripp04.html</A> <p>[This message has been edited by grace (edited June 23, 2000).]

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