CEO Weekly Blog – w/c 18 Feb

Haines Watts for CEO Blog.jpg

Having my photo taken is absolutely the worst way to start any week for me, but they say it is good to confront your fears so I’m choosing to publish the results from last Monday: me with our lovely auditors Gillian and Becky from Haines Watts, who have generously supported our A Theatre Trip for Every Child campaign.

We are in the early stages of planning a new website, so a good part of this week was taken up with the brain-scrambling thinking that this task requires. What I am finding interesting about the process is the questions it is forcing us to ask about the wider organisation, how we talk about it and how we present it. The constant challenge is ensuring it functions really effectively as a sales site, because we need it to drive earned income, but at the same time, our desire to better show the wider work ARC does. We are ultimately an arts charity and we want to talk about all our work, but how can we make sure that it doesn’t get in the way for someone who just wants to buy a ticket for Jason Manford? And is anyone other than us interested?

The other thing I have been thinking about this week is boards – partly because I am in the midst of writing my report for ARC’s next board meeting, but also because I was interviewed on Wednesday by a consultant exploring this topic. Lots of independent arts organisations have boards of trustees, voluntary members of the public who support us to develop and monitor our vision and strategy. Exactly what their role is, and how we can best equip them to carry it out effectively, is not as simple as it sounds.

In addition to helping to shape strategic plans, I often think, in very simplistic terms, that boards really come into their own at two specific points in an organisation’s life: when something goes wrong, and they have to step in and rescue it; or when they have to recruit a new leader. To do these things effectively, they need to know the organisation inside out, so the rest of the time a primary function is to stay up to speed, knowledgeable and informed. Consequently, leaders of organisations spend a lot of time providing information to boards – as my 12 page activity report along with a whole set of finance papers demonstrates – but what are we asking board members to do with that information, other than store it?

When an organisation is thriving, and in between periods of concentrated strategic planning, board membership can feel quite passive. How can we better use our boards in these periods?