Saturday, March 26, 2016

Wanted: an Executive Director for an International Art Society

I've been fascinated for a very long time by
  • the different organisational forms that art societies around the world choose to take; and
  • how they choose to organise themselves.
Indeed being successful as an art society revolves very much around how the many challenges of running an art society and its various activities are managed. I've seen some laid low while others thrive - influenced very much by the way they were run by the people at the top.

I spent many years as a management consultant unravelling 'what went wrong' in terms of why an organisation was facing a challenge and failing - only to find that the issue very often lay in how well the organisation was managed.

Much as in the 'real world' outside art, how effective an art society is depends a lot on the quality of leadership and the effectiveness of management.  Much can be accomplished if the people are good and the society has good systems and sound control on its finances!

Thus whether or not an art society is ultimately successful seems to be rooted in the choices made about:
  • governance:
    • what sort of organisation it should be in legal terms
    • how the Council or Board or elected members should operate 
    • how elections and appointments work! (never under-estimate how important these are!)
    • what the scope of the roles are for different Council Members charged with different responsibilities
    • how strategy is developed
    • how core activities are managed 
    • how finance is managed
  • staffing of key roles:
    • what competences are needed to fulfil those roles to best effect
    • whether or not Board members have paid help in addition to the voluntary support from what is often a small nucleus of key members
  • expectations - what's expected of members in terms of effort and subscriptions.

Some questions about management and leadership

So what's required of somebody running a very large art society?

For example:
  • Does your art society have:
    • a set of descriptions for roles and responsibilities;  and 
    • a statement of the personal qualifications and competences of those who fill those roles?
  • What do you think is the most important attribute of anybody running an art society?

Let's take a look at one example....

Advertisement for an Executive Director

It was refreshing this week to see an advertisement for a role that doesn't often get advertised.  Hence we get the opportunity to take a look at one society's view of what is required.

The American Society of Botanical Artists published its advertisement for a new Executive Director. This is the job description and person spec. for the Executive Director.

I think a lot of art societies might like to ponder on it - while remembering this is an advertisement for the person who is in effect the Chief Executive as opposed to the Chair of the Board.

It's the job which is accountable to the Council (or Board in the case of ASBA) - and makes sure that the society stays on track with its Strategic Plan and delivers on its commitments and services to members - while remaining in robust financial health!

In this instance it references the scope of activities that the individual is responsible for and describes the the type of qualifications expected of the individual who will fulfil the role.

I think it provides a very interesting guide for a number of other art societies about what the person leading and managing an art society needs to do.

In terms of the person spec ("qualifications") I guess the only thing I would query is why limit it to people who can travel once a week to the New York Botanical Garden where the ASBA offices are based.  That seemed a bit of an odd requirement in terms of attracting the best person for the job who might live anywhere in the USA. After all Skype and other forms of digital communications now enables people to run global organisations while located in any number of different places!

NOTE: About the American Society of Botanical Artists

The ASBA website Home Page

This is not a small organisation - far from it!

It has adopted the model which allows all those with a passion for botanical art to join as members hence it has grown and grown....
Since its founding by Diane Bouchier in 1994, ASBA has grown from an organization of 200 to nearly 1300 individual members and from 5 to more than 20 institutional members from around the world.
Hence the need for a paid members of staff.

They've also got a very interesting Strategic Plan. I wonder how many arts societies can boast one of those?

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