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Landmark Museum Governance Survey: CEOs and Board Chairs Identify Areas for Improvement

Category: Press Release


May 8, 2017

ARLINGTON, VA–Eighty-seven percent of museum directors and board chairs rate their organizations as effective in fulfilling their missions, but there remains significant room for improvement when it comes to advocacy and inclusion, according to a new and unprecedented national survey of museum directors and board chairs.

A new report, Museum Board Leadership 2017, commissioned by the American Alliance of Museums (AAM), the only organization representing the entire scope of the museum community, grades boards on a wide variety of policies, practices, and performance. The survey was conducted in partnership with BoardSource and Northern Trust.

The report’s key findings:

  • Two-thirds of museum directors say their boards have a positive impact on their job satisfaction.
  • Museum boards give themselves a B- grade overall, on par with other nonprofits; however, the vast majority of museum boards do not formally assess their performance.
  • Museum directors and board chairs believe board diversity and inclusion are important to advance their missions, but have failed to prioritize action steps to advance these priorities.
  • Eighty percent of museums give themselves a grade of C or lower on monitoring legislative and regulatory issues with potential to impact the organization.
  • Museum board chairs are actively engaged in fundraising activities, and identified fundraising as the most important area for improvement.

An image of the cover of Museum Board Leadership 2017“Museum boards are absolutely critical to our ability to fulfill our missions and fully serve our communities,” said Laura Lott, president and CEO of the Alliance. “In many ways, the report serves as a source of encouragement, given the high marks museum directors assign their boards. Other results—particularly around board diversity and engagement in critical advocacy efforts—demonstrate a dire need for improvement. We look forward to using these findings as a springboard for important conversations in our field, and a benchmark against which to measure progress.”

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“Effective museum governance, specifically in the areas of fundraising and investment management, is essential to ensure the financial stability and long term viability of our nation’s cultural institutions and to protect their legacies,” said Darius A. Gill, National Practice Executive for Foundation & Institutional Advisors at Northern Trust.

“BoardSource is proud to have partnered with the American Alliance of Museums and Northern Trust on this important report. By modeling it after BoardSource’s Leading with Intent: A National Index of Nonprofit Board Practices, museum leaders are able for the very first time to benchmark their governance practices with other museums as well as with more than 1,300 other nonprofit organizations throughout the country,” said Anne Wallestad, president & CEO of BoardSource. “We hope the report inspires museum leaders to reflect on their practices knowing that exceptional governance is within their reach.”

A panel of museum leaders—both directors and board chairs—will discuss the report and its findings today at the inaugural Trustee Summit at the AAM Annual Meeting & MuseumExpo in St. Louis.

    meeting registration

About Northern Trust

Foundation and Institutional Advisors (FIA) is Northern Trust Wealth Management’s consultative national practice dedicated to serving the nonprofit market through investment advisory, asset servicing, and administration services. FIA provides a wide spectrum of sophisticated investment solutions, strategic insights and world-class resources.  It focuses on serving as the lead investment advisor for entities with $10 million or more in assets. For more information, visit Northern Trust.

About BoardSource

BoardSource is the recognized leader in nonprofit board leadership and supports, trains, and educates nonprofit leaders from across the country and throughout the world. With almost three decades of experience, BoardSource provides leaders with an extensive range of tools, resources, and research data to increase board effectiveness and strengthen organizational impact. BoardSource is a 501(c)(3) organization. For more information, visit BoardSource.

About the American Alliance of Museums

The American Alliance of Museums has been bringing museums together since 1906, helping to develop standards and best practices, gathering and sharing knowledge, and providing advocacy on issues of concern to the entire museum community. Representing more than 35,000 individual museum professionals and volunteers, institutions, and corporate partners serving the museum field, the Alliance stands for the broad scope of the museum community.  For more information, visit AAM.


Media Contacts:

Northern Trust

Douglas A. Holt
Senior Vice President, Head of Global Corporate Communications


Anne Atwood Mead
Director of Communications


Joseph Klem
Director, Public Relations
American Alliance of Museums

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