Museum Board Leadership 2017: A National Report

Category: Research and Reports
Cover Image from the Museum Board Leadership report. Multi-colored abstract background behind title text

Good governance is essential to the work of museum trustees and directors, providing the very foundation for the museum’s success. Together the board and the director set the direction of the museum, obtain and manage the resources needed for it to fulfill its mission and ensure that the museum is accountable to the public. Museum boards and trustees are the connective tissue that links the museum and its mission to the community it serves. AAM’s strategic plan calls for strengthening those connections by engaging museum boards and helping museum directors build and maintain the highest standards of good governance.

Image of the cover of Museum Board Leadership. A colorful image of greens, purple and orange swaths of color.Landmark Museum Governance Survey:  CEOs and Board Chairs Identify Areas for Improvement

A new report, Museum Board Leadership 2017, commissioned by AAM, grades boards on a wide variety of policies, practices, and performance. The survey was conducted in partnership with BoardSource and Northern Trust.

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 the potential to impact the organization.
  • Museum board chairs are actively engaged in fundraising activities and identified fundraising as the most important area for improvement.
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A panel of museum leaders—both directors and board chairs—discussed the report and its findings May 8, 2017, at the inaugural Trustee Summit at the AAM Annual Meeting & MuseumExpo in St. Louis.

Questions? Contact Brooke Leonard, Chief of Staff, at 202-289-9139 or email bleonard@aam-us.org.

The Alliance thanks our supporters:

Northern Trust logo showing an anchor with an N juxtaposed over the middle and then Northern Trust written in green to the right in all capital letters.
Board Source logo. Where Board is in green, Source is light blue written over "Empowering Boards. Inspiring Leadership." written in yellow text.

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