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Article Published: 15 Mar 2019

At the National Trustee Forum 2019

The National Trustee Forum engages trustees from across North America in addressing issues of governance. The 2019 program included sessions on civic practice, board-staff relationships, the role of research in cultivating a learning board, strategies for recruiting and engaging board members, and resources for preventing sexual harassment. Some highlights included:

On Board-Staff Relationships
Charles MacKay, the former general director of The Santa Fe Opera, emphasized that the relationship between senior staff and board members needs to be like “a marriage or partnership, based on mutual trust and an understanding of their distinct and complementary roles and responsibilities.” The job of the board’s leader, he went on to say, includes taking care of the organization’s general director.

On Recruiting Board Members
The analogy of casting and rehearsing board members — as a company would do with artists — was first invoked by Wayne Brown, president and CEO of Michigan Opera Theatre. Start with identifying the roles that the board needs; audition your candidates and then offer them coaching as needed.

On Being a Learning Board
Marc A. Scorca reminded trustees to ask questions through the governance lens, not as staff members. “Think about what you want to ask and add, ‘As a board member, what can I do to raise more contributions from corporations? As a board member, how can I support the company’s goal to find a younger audience?’”

This article was published in the Spring/Summer 2019 issue of Across the Board, a publication of OPERA America for opera company trustees.