A detailed study of arts governance published as a joint venture between the Australia Council for the Arts and the Institute of Community Directors Australia (ICDA) has highlighted the biggest issues facing arts leaders when it comes to running their organisations.
The 24-page report, Arts and Culture Governance Spotlight, is based on a close analysis of a national survey of nearly 1900 not-for-profit sector leaders and is the latest in a series.
The Spotlight study reveals that top issues for arts and culture leaders at the board table include:
- The need to boost board representation of people who are young, have a disability, are of Indigenous descent, and are from culturally and linguistically diverse communities
- The lack of formal board reviews (these happen less often in arts organisations than in other sectors), as well as a need to better track board performance
- Lower rates of reviewing CEO performance than in the NFP sector as a whole
- A high level of satisfaction and understanding about board membership and roles
- Less than half of arts and culture board members getting a good induction when joining
- The need for fundraising and governance training
- A lack of tracking of organisational success, with 16% of organisations saying they do not measure this in any way, a finding repeated across all NFP sectors.
The Australia Council for the Arts’ director of capacity building, Kevin du Preez, said the findings highlight the unique nature of the arts and culture sector, while benchmarking its work against the rest of the not-for-profit sector.
Mr du Preez said he was surprised by some of the results, such as the finding that arts boards were less likely than other not-for-profits to assess themselves or review their CEO’s performance.
He said the biggest and most immediate challenge for arts leaders in light of the study was the need for further training in governance, fundraising and business modelling.
Arts boards should add the report to their agenda, he said, and ask: “When last have we done a board review? How can we do one that is not too onerous? Where can we get additional resources?”
The intelligence contained in the report would be vital to the arts sector, he said, because “governance is critical to strong organisations, and strong organisations ensures a sustainable sector.”
In turn, a healthy sector meant Australians would see more art, and “more art means we are more connected”.
“A creatively connected nation is what we need now, more so than ever.”
Mr du Preez said the study would build on the Council’s existing training and networking partnership with ICDA, which has reached 1100 people and helps arts managers and directors to perform better.
He said the report would perform a vital role during a time of rapid change.
“Ensuring the sustainability of arts organisations is vital to a creatively connected nation. Our cultural and creative sectors are facing significant forces of change and evolution. It is no longer possible to rely on traditional business models, modes of operation or engagement. To ensure the creative sector thrives in this evolving landscape, we are supporting the sector to continually adapt to industry change; to realise the potential of diversity; and to actively cultivate creativity and innovation.”
Mr du Preez encouraged arts organisations, their boards and their managers to examine the research and seek to use the study to forge improvements.
The study is a subset of a larger “roadmap” report, Rethink What You Know about Not-for-profit Governance, released late last year, which delves into issues across the NFP sector and covers:
- Capacity and skills
- The chair’s role
- Impact, data, digital tools
- Fraud and cybercrime
- Relations with government and peak bodies.
This latest Spotlight study builds on six earlier reports that drew attention to critical issues for the sector.
Lead author and Our Community executive director Kathy Richardson said all the studies had an unashamedly practical focus and would be used to “shift the dial towards better governance”.