CEOs and Board Chairs Identify Areas for Improvement

Museum Board Leadership 2017: A National Report

We look forward to using these findings as a springboard for important conversations in our field, and a benchmark against which to measure progress

Eighty-seven percent of museum directors and board chairs rate their organizations as effective in fulfilling their missions, but there remains significant room for improvement when it comes to advocacy and inclusion, according to a new and unprecedented national survey of museum directors and board chairs.

A new report, Museum Board Leadership 2017, commissioned by the American Alliance of Museums (AAM), the only organization representing the entire scope of the museum community, grades boards on a wide variety of policies, practices, and performance. The survey was conducted in partnership with BoardSource and Northern Trust.

The report’s key findings:

  • Two-thirds of museum directors say their boards have a positive impact on their job satisfaction.
  • Museum boards give themselves a B- grade overall, on par with other nonprofits; however, the vast majority of museum boards do not formally assess their performance.
  • Museum directors and board chairs believe board diversity and inclusion are important to advance their missions, but have failed to prioritize action steps to advance these priorities.
  • Eighty percent of museums give themselves a grade of C or lower on monitoring legislative and regulatory issues with potential to impact the organization.
  • Museum board chairs are actively engaged in fundraising activities, and identified fundraising as the most important area for improvement.

“Museum boards are absolutely critical to our ability to fulfill our missions and fully serve our communities,” said Laura Lott, president and CEO of the Alliance. “In many ways, the report serves as a source of encouragement, given the high marks museum directors assign their boards. Other results—particularly around board diversity and engagement in critical advocacy efforts—demonstrate a dire need for improvement. We look forward to using these findings as a springboard for important conversations in our field, and a benchmark against which to measure progress.”

“Effective museum governance, specifically in the areas of fundraising and investment management, is essential to ensure the financial stability and long term viability of our nation’s cultural institutions and to protect their legacies,” said Darius A. Gill, National Practice Executive for Foundation & Institutional Advisors at Northern Trust.

“BoardSource is proud to have partnered with the American Alliance of Museums and Northern Trust on this important report. By modeling it after BoardSource’s Leading with Intent: A…

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