Engaged Champions

Recipient: SkyArts
Challenge: Establish a staffing structure for increased productivity and maximize the potential and deepen investment from their current board
Solution: SkyArt hired an external consultant to lead the board through a change process. The process resulted in the institution of a board “Champion” model. The consultant also assessed staff roles and recommended improvements to the organizational structure.
Results: The board felt more engaged and connected and staff functioned at a higher level. Everyone understood what everyone else was doing and how their jobs related to each other.
Impact: Establishing a new board operating model is only the beginning of the process, not the end. New systems and new ways of operating must be constantly nurtured or positive change will wither.
AWF Support $13,000 grant to begin to prepare itself for a $2 million capital campaign

The Project:

In late 2014, the then 13-year-old community arts organization has just purchased a 6,000-sq. ft. facility and was readying itself to launch a $2 million capital campaign. SkyArt received a $13,000 grant to begin to prepare itself for the big task ahead. It worked with a consultant to improve board functioning and realign current staff to meet coming operational needs. At the time, SkyArt had nine board members. The consultant, Jim Hirsch, helped create a “Champions” board model in which each board member committed to serving as a champion of two areas, such as programs and finance. In doing so, these two-person board teams served as mini-committees. Board members became much more engaged in the organization and began to collaborate with one another. They were excited about the ideas generated and the opportunities ahead. It was this level of board engagement that was necessary for what was a successful capital campaign. The consultant also worked with staff, helping to set operating policies and clarify roles and relationships. Throughout, the consultant coached the executive director, supporting her during a crucial growth period of the organization. At the time of the grant, SkyArt had three full time and one part time employee and a budget of $390,000. Three years later, it has eight full time employees and the budget of $812,000.

The Champion model worked for SkyArt. But, over time, the focus on how the board was operating tapering off as other priorities arose. Board engagement and functioning started to decrease. Just because you establish a model, it doesn’t mean that the board will function on its own. The board, and its operating cultural, need to be constantly nurtured. Four new board members have recently joined SkyArts and the organization will be reintroducing the Champions model because it feels it was a successful in helping the board and the organization reach its goals.

The Arts Work Fund invests in the financial sustainability, management, governance and growth capacities of small arts and cultural organizations located in the Chicago metropolitan region.

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Arts Work Fund for Organizational Development
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