I am privileged to be a member of the 2013-2014 Leadership Arts class through the Colorado Business Committee for the Arts. We meet once a month to learn the ins and outs of what it means to serve on the board of an arts and culture organization.
This month, we met at the Mizel Arts and Culture Center at the Jewish Community Center to discuss legal and fiscal stewardship. (As an aside, if you haven’t experienced a production in their newly renovated theater it’s definitely worth it.)
I’ve never been one to take my board service lightly, but this month’s topic definitely drove home the fact that board service, whether for a corporate or a community board, is a serious duty. Many in class were surprised to learn that board members can be held personally liable for oversights and misconduct of the board that leads to the detriment or dissolution of the company or organization.
So how do I make the most of my board service, you ask?
Choose the board(s) you commit to wisely. Do they carry directors and officers insurance? Are you passionate about the organization mission? Can you realistically commit the time not only to regular board meetings, but also to ensuring you’re prepared for those meetings and are available to attend and support the organizations’ programs and initiatives?
Participate and ask questions. You were likely asked to serve on the board because of your expertise, so find opportunities to bring that to bear to benefit the organization. And don’t be afraid to ask questions and challenge the status quo.
Educate yourself. It’s always a good idea to experience first hand the programs offered by the organization whose board you sit on. Also, if you don’t know how to read a financial statement or don’t have much experience dealing with HR issues, do some research, talk to an expert or read up on the areas you feel weak in.
Delegate. The board should oversee operations, but should not be involved in the day-to-day activities of the organization. These should be delegated to staff. In addition, look for opportunities to leverage outside resources to achieve results if the skills or capabilities don’t exist among board members or staff.