By Mary Baily Wieler
What are the experiences that lead you to wanting to make this donation? TMM- tell me more.
Schervish cited 5 possible approaches to donors:
1 - Identification with the Museum: Skip selflessness and Altruism and discuss mutual benefits for your donor and your museum.
2 - Gratitude: Holding biographical conversations can help potential donors to follow their emotional connection to the museum.
3 - Hyper-Agency: Appeal to a donor's ability to make a substantial gift that single-handedly achieves one of your museum's priorities.
4 - Build an Experience: Focus the donor on his or her ability to provide a mutually enriching experience for others.
5 - Satisfaction/Happiness: The draw of these qualities is rich, enduring and potent.
The Legal Responsibility of Trustees
Marc Broderick of US Trust cited that the legal responsibilities of Board members have changed greatly over the last 15 years. Acts such as Sarbanes-Oxley and Dodd-Frank stress that today’s trustees are expected to have a level of competence and to exercise reasonable care in making decisions. In addition, trustees must be knowledgeable about state and local laws, IRS Code, Fair Labor Standards, anti-discrimination laws and Investor Act UPMIFA. Museums need to articulate guidelines for serving on the board and to familiarize the members with its mission, strategic plan and regular presentation of financial reports. A well-organized Board Orientation program would also include a review of the museum’s by-laws, internal policies and procedures and staff roles and responsibilities.
Building an Effective University Museum Advisory Board
Our Four-University-Director panel concluded that their role required “Secretary of State level diplomacy”. University Directors have to navigate among a variety of constituencies: National Advisory Board, University Advisory Board, Student Advisory Board and Community Advisory Board. Additionally, the issue of development can be highly political, and ownership of donors can be hotly contested. However, a university museum also needs to celebrate the association and the support that the university development operations provide. One director cited the heartache of having to negotiate university development priorities versus museum priorities with donors. Changes of university Presidents are brutal and make this an extremely complex position.
When asked about the best qualities of an Advisory Board member, one director stated;
“generosity in time and treasure, supportive of mission, engagement, and a sense of humor”.
Executive Leadership Change
Marilyn Hoffman, Principal, Museum Search & Reference led our panel on Executive Leadership Change. Key steps to successful search were drawn from the recent executive transitions at The Nasher Museum at Duke University and The Chrysler Museumin Norfolk, VA. Nasher was only 10 years old and went through a change from its inaugural director. Having a strategic plan in place was helpful; The Search Co. was seeking a candidate who understood the importance of connection to the local Durham and university community, who could handle that complexity of national and international Advisory Board members and had fundraising skills to help complete Duke’s $3.2 billion campaign.
With a long-standing Director retiring, the Chrysler board started with a 2-3 month visioning process to identify “who we were and where we wanted to go.” An outside consultant interviewed 100 stakeholders. The Search Committee traveled to other museums for ideas as well. The Committee determined that the most important candidate qualities were the abilities to project leadership and to commanded respect during personal meetings with the Committee.
Chrysler used a Predictive Index Survey for its finalists, but wouldn't use it again. "It was difficult to interpret and candidates resented the tests as being developed for corporate sector and not reflective of a museum director’s job.” All agreed that the best information comes from reference conversations- people often know who to ask for necessary information. Search Firms can be helpful with questions to ask to get into deeper issues. One of the key challenges is maintaining confidentiality.
Onboarding of a new Director is the final component of a successful transition process. All members of the discussion stressed the need for introductions to the community via board-led dinners, one on one meetings and more public events as members are curious and eager to meet the new Director. One audience member recommended that a Transition Committee be formed to orchestrate this process separate from the Search Committee and that a 1 year calendar of events be created.
Lessons in Leadership
Three experienced Board Chairs shared their perspectives on qualities needed to run a board, how to engage board members, and what makes a board member effective. They determined that a good board leader creates an atmosphere of openness on the Board and with the director. He or she goes into a Board meeting knowing what outcomes he or she wants but also listens, makes each member feel valued, and remembers that they are volunteers with other lives and Boards. Effective Board Leaders form a relationship of trust between the Director and Board. Another key lesson;
"The presence of a good Chair and a bad Board doesn't lead to much good, but a bad Chair and good Board still can.”
“Good Boards are those in which all of the questions get asked; good Board members ask the questions that wouldn't have been asked if they weren't there; good Board members can answer 'why does this museum exist and why is it important that it exist?'”
“It seems obvious, but find out what the Board Member wants to do and USE them. Giving them meaningful work is essential.”