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Leading Roles

50 Questions Every Arts Board Should Ask

Michael M. Kaiser

Publication Year: 2010

A concise, practical, and timely guide for board members of arts organizations Not-for-profit arts organizations struggled to survive the recent economic recession. In this increasingly hardscrabble environment, it is absolutely imperative that the boards of these organizations function as energetically, creatively, and efficiently as possible. Michael M. Kaiser’s personal history with boards of arts organizations began when he served on the board of the Washington Opera (now the Washington National Opera) in 1983. Today, in his capacity as president of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, Kaiser recently completed a 50-state, 69-city Arts in Crisis tour. Board issues came up repeatedly as central to the success or failure of the organization. Drawing on these and many other conversations, nationally and internationally, Kaiser’s book offers members of boards and staffs the information they need to create the healthy atmosphere necessary to thriving arts organizations. Organized in a clear, readable, question-and-answer format, Leading Roles covers every aspect of board participation in the life of the organization, including mission and governance; fundraising and marketing responsibilities; the relationship of the board to the artistic director, executive director, and staff; and its responsibilities for planning and budgeting. Kaiser addresses boards in crisis, international boards, and boards of arts organizations of color. Throughout, he emphasizes the importance of transparency and clarity in the board’s dealings with its own members and those of the arts community of which it is a part, showing how anything less results in contentiousness that can immobilize an arts organization, or even tear it apart.

Published by: Brandeis University Press

Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. vii-x

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pp. xi-xii

The concepts and ideas in this book have been developed over a twenty- five-year career in arts management. It is clearly not a scholarly work. There are no sources of information identified, no footnotes, and no index. I have stolen ideas liberally throughout my career from the...


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pp. xiii-xiv

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pp. xv-xx

When I teach arts management seminars outside the United States, I am always greeted with a wave of jealousy about American boards of directors. Foreign arts managers want boards to give huge contributions, solicit all of their friends, and support the work of the staff, as they...

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Life Cycle

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pp. 1-7

Before one can discuss the role of the board, the way board members should interact with administrative and artistic staff, and the way to evaluate marketing, fundraising, and financial plans, it is essential to understand what makes an arts organization run successfully...

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Board and Mission

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pp. 8-14

A mission statement is the central management tool of any not-for-profit organization. The mission directs every action of the organization; it motivates the strategic plan; and it explains how the organization will measure success. It is easy to write the mission statement of a for-profit...

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Board Governance

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pp. 15-43

Every not-for-profit arts board in the United States has five key responsibilities that it is obligated to fulfill. The success of the organization, in large measure, depends on the vigor with which the board addresses these tasks. These responsibilities include approving the plan; approving...

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Board and Fundraising

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pp. 44-62

Many board members believe that their organizations depend too heavily on contributed revenue. Typically, a substantial percentage of board members on any arts board come from the for-profit sector. Corporate executives often cannot understand why an arts organization cannot balance...

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Board and Marketing

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pp. 63-78

While board members are generally far more involved in fundraising than in marketing, it is still essential that board members understand and concur with the marketing plans supporting both earned and unearned income. Arts organizations that do not pursue smart, integrated marketing...

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Board and Staff

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pp. 79-87

One of the five cardinal roles of the board is to hire the senior staff members who report directly to them, typically the executive director and the artistic director. But boards are often so unaware of what it really takes to be successful in these positions that they do not necessarily do...

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Board and Planning/Budgeting

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pp. 88-101

The strategic planning efforts of many arts organizations suffer from not having a “plan for planning.” Board and staff members may gather in a room to discuss a series of important topics and hope their conclusions coalesce into a meaningful plan. Usually these planning exercises are time...

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Board in Crisis

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pp. 102-104

The first thing to do when it becomes clear that an organization is in crisis is to relax. Do not panic. No arts organization can get into too much trouble, since no one will lend it very much money. Arts deficits are usually less than a few million dollars—a lot of money if one does not have...

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International Boards

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pp. 105-107

American boards tend to function very differently from boards in most other countries. This is a direct result of differences in funding sources for arts organizations across the globe. In the United States, where government funding usually comprises a small portion of total funding for...

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Arts Organizations of Color

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pp. 108-109

Although arts organizations of color are similar to white organizations in most respects, there is one important difference: the sources of contributed revenue. While white organizations typically receive sixty percent or more of their funding from individual donors, arts organizations...

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Subsidiary Boards

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pp. 110-112

Numerous arts organizations have subsidiary boards, which are groups of individuals who provide a service to the organization, but do not have fiduciary responsibilities. But the nature of these boards varies substantially from organization to organization...

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Board and Programming

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pp. 113-126

One of the notions commonly held by many people, including board members, is that artistic directors—in fact all artists—are spendthrifts: they do not care at all about what they spend, how much they waste, or if they are staying within the specified budget. Taken to its extreme, this...

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pp. 127-131

The past year has afforded me the opportunity to travel across the nation and the globe. I have met more arts managers and board members in this period than I have in the rest of my entire career. I have heard inspirational stories, sad stories, frustrating stories, and crazy stories. I have...

Also from Michael Kaiser

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E-ISBN-13: 9781584659518
E-ISBN-10: 1584659513
Print-ISBN-13: 9781584659068
Print-ISBN-10: 1584659068

Page Count: 192
Illustrations: 2 graphs.
Publication Year: 2010