Stewarding Shakespeare: The Role of the Board

Stewarding Shakespeare: The Role of the Board (Crystal Room)
Jeffrey Nelson speaks about Utah Shakespeare Festival’s good governance practices, and how a board can have a positive effect on a Shakespeare theater’s mission, finances, and strategic direction. Attendees will be asked to share questions and experiences regarding board performance.
There is a document on wordpress site about best board practices. This is also a good reference document:
Some thoughts on:
– Limited terms for board members allows for mix of experience, new blood and new thinking
-Annual reminders about conflict of interest
– Board members are “lunched” and it is like an interview, then they are sent an invitation
– Board members should be recruited for their expertise and motivation, but the expectations for the $$ they donate should be upfront.
-Question: “give/get” numbers — do they help or hurt? —> Consider saying “we would like to be number one or two in your philanthropic giving” instead of setting a minimum give amount.
– Creating diversity on the board… geographically and ethnically can result in a stronger organization.
  • Jack Welch – “the 3am test”: you should be able to call up any of your board or staff members at3am and they should be able to easily rattle off the the mission of the organization and the few top priorities of the organization at that moment.
  • Keeping the mission / purpose at the forefront of the boards attention
  • Boards struggle with whether to serve as a High level advisor vs. day-to-day details
  • Meet once every quarter – plus one offsite strategic board meeting (5 meetings a year)
  • Subcommittees help drive engagement and collaboration
  • Monitoring and strengthening programs — committee structure really helps with that
  • Some of Utah Shakespeare Festival’s subcommittees include:  nominations, planning, development, education, finance, communications.
  • “Alignment” of goals — organization cannot focus on more than 3 – 5 priorities at a time
  • The strategic plan helps create focus 
  • 7 habits of highly successful people – Steven Covey —> “wrong forest” story—> make sure you’re hacking in the right direction, and that you’re hacking in the right forest.
How do you work around university politics and get bylaws, rules, and a board governance structure built?
It’s all about helping the university realize how you fit into their priorities, and how that board structure will help the university accomplish their goals.
What things can the company/staff do to make the BOD feel valuable and needed and motivated?
1.) Personal investment: top staff taking the time to know Board family member names, send personal notes, and get involved and interact with patrons all helps.
2.) Executive staff should be great listeners and encourage ideas – even when the ideas from the board are not feasible.
3.) Board members have their own internal reasons – passionate about the mission, like to build companies, like to help their community.
4.) Challenge them: “there’s no good time to start a business”
The Art of Being Unreasonable by Eli Broad— talks about pushing people to their limits to get things done, may not always be pretty but at the end of the day you have something you can look back on and feel passionate and accomplished about.
5.) “Utah Shakespeare Festival lets us be insiders” — a majority of board members start as patrons and fall in love with the festival
6.) Most/All Board members share at least one thing: a love for the arts.
Q: What sort of impact can board members make other than fundraising?
A:  organize new events
     debates about the artistic staff choices – season selection
     serve as liaisons to the community and other business partners (for example at Utah Shakes the president of the university is on the board.)
Q: What effort is the biggest fundraiser for Utah Shakespeare Festival?
A: Table sales and corporate or individual sponsorships at Galas. Lead generation for these events comes through our database.
Sarah Stackhouse talks about board culture — they have a board members who knows how to make a room feel good, how to make people feel like ambassadors, this person has lunch with other board chairs once a month.
“START WITH THE ART” at every board meeting – “whats your favorite play you’ve seen recently” etc… makes it about more than just business and connects them into the work.
Board members who did not start as patrons are selected because of geographic or skill needs – they are effective but not AS effective.
“Need is such a powerful driver” for recruiting board members.
-“Friend-raising” a good way to recruit.
Q: getting the right people on the bus seems to be the most important thing —> how do you structure a nominating process that works well? 
A: LOTS of vetting, deal with needs one board member at a time, vice-chair is on nominating committee – the chair is not on the nominating committee – (check and balance).

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