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2024 Museum Board Leadership: A National Report

Category: Research and Reports
A graphic of colored and gray circles with text that reads Download today 2024 Museum Board Leadership: A National Report

Museum Board Leadership 2024: A National Report, conducted by AAM and Slover Linett at NORC with support from Northern Trust, serves as the second iteration of Museum Board Leadership 2017. The survey was fielded September 20 through November 5, 2023, with responses from 1,062 museum directors and board members representing a broad cross-section of the museum field.

Knowing the essential role board members play in the vitality of our field, the first iteration of this report measured the performance of museum boards on a field-wide scale, taking a close look at diversity, culture, and finances. The 2024 report highlights the critical strides museum boards have taken with diversity and inclusion in recent years, as well as the many challenges and opportunities to further equity in the highest ranks of museum leadership and improve overall efficacy.

Key findings:

  • Boards have made meaningful progress in diversifying their ranks, and still have significant room for improvement. In 2017, nearly half (46%) of museum directors reported that their boards were entirely white (i.e., no people of color). With this iteration of the survey, 27% of directors report their boards as entirely white.
  • Boards and directors widely agree that diversity and inclusion is important to board performance. This sentiment has grown since the 2017 study. Directors’ assessments of board impact on organization performance corresponds with an increase in diversity across many demographic characteristics.
  • Most boards have engaged in conversations about diversity and inclusion, but many museums have not followed up on these discussions with concrete actions to promote diversity. Only 39% of boards have modified recruitment efforts to reach potential members from diverse backgrounds, and 33% of boards have modified organizational policies and procedures to be more inclusive and equitable.
  • There is relative parity in representation between men and women on boards, and a majority of directors are women. However, women are much more likely to direct smaller museums than men – about three-quarters of museums with revenues under $1 million are led by women directors.
  • Boards widely can improve their performance regarding fundraising, outreach, advocacy, and government relations. Average director ‘grades’ for their board’s performance in these areas range from C to D+, and board members agree that these are the greatest areas in need of improvement.
  • The museum field continues to face financial strain in the aftermath of the pandemic, with half of museums indicating at least one sign of financial distress. In the six months prior to completing the survey, half of museums either lost revenue or had to make difficult decisions on personnel, programs, or other expenditures (or all of the above). One-quarter of museums have dipped into their reserves or endowment to cover operating expenses.

Download the full report below.


We are grateful to Northern Trust for their support of this research.

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