Trustee Resource Center
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 effectively serving its community. Museum boards and trustees are the connective tissue that link the museum and its mission to the community it serves. AAM’s 2022-2025 Strategic Framework calls us to engage, convene, and equip museum trustees, leaders, and changemakers with case studies, assessments, and benchmarking resources to build DEAI skills and lead more equitable and anti-racist museums.
The following are resources and tools that trustees can use to inform their work in museums and that museum leaders can use as a starting point for deepening the engagement of their boards. As a part of the Facing Change: Advancing Museum Board Diversity & Inclusion initiative, this space will be continuously updated as new resources become available.
Advancing racial and ethnic diversity, equity, accessibility, and inclusion on boards can be a daunting task for any institution. No matter where you are in your journey, questions arise when doing DEAI work, and it’s hard to know where to start or what to prioritize. It is critical to embed racial equity into every stage and all facets of museum operations in order to effect lasting change. To do this, though, we must start from wherever we are in our learning journey, with the people we have on our boards, on our staff, and in our communities right now.
Many of you might already have group agreements under which your museums and boards operate. As a best practice, whenever engaging in DEAI or Race Equity work, these are the agreements we try to live into at the American Alliance of Museums.
Finding and recruiting senior-level diverse leaders to your board can be a daunting proposition. Check out this guide to recruiting, onboarding, and retaining diverse board members.
With over 25+ years of experience, the Adaway Group supports sustainable diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) work reshaping organizations on the personal and institutional levels. Check out their resource guide and learn more about what they do here.
If your museum is interested in engaging in social justice work, check out this robust list of resources curated by Artstuffmatters. Led by La Tanya S. ArtStuffMatters explores advocacy and organizing of public culture in the arts. She focuses on public art, photography, landscapes, museums, and more. You can find Artstuffmatters on WordPress, Twitter, Instagram, Flickr, and Pinterest.
To succeed in an increasingly diverse world, nonprofit organizations need to remain relevant and connected to the communities they serve. Check out this resource from BoardSource that articulates the need to represent diverse points of view.
How do nonprofits see diversity as relevant to their goals? How do they want their foundation funders to be involved in their diversity efforts? In discussions about diversity at foundations, it’s essential that the perspectives of grantees be included in the conversation. That’s why The Center for Effective Philanthropy turned to its Grantee Voice Panel of nonprofit leaders to learn more about how nonprofits are thinking about diversity — and how foundations can be most helpful to their grantees, if at all when it comes to this topic.
Nonprofit theatre boards are unrepresentative, out of touch, and more often oppressive than supportive. We can and must do this better. Check out this article by Michael J. Bobbitt on what he believes can be done to address concerns around board service.
In this guide, grantmakers explain why a focus on racial equity gives them a powerful “lens” for understanding and advancing their work. Drawing on firsthand experiences, the guide offers advice on promoting and deepening your foundation’s commitment to racial equity, both internally and in the programs you support.
This Museum Board Leadership 2017 Report, 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.
In spring 2017, following its strategic plan, the American Alliance of Museums (AAM) convened the Working Group on Diversity, Equity, Accessibility, and Inclusion (DEAI). Twenty museum professionals, representing a variety of disciplines, organizational sizes and types, and perspectives, came together monthly at the Alliance’s offices in Arlington, Virginia, and once at the 2017 AAM Annual Meeting in St. Louis, Missouri. For six months, this group examined the characteristics of effective museum inclusion practices and considered what steps the field could take to promote DEAI.
Throughout the social sector, there remains a glaring omission of a fundamental element of social impact: race equity. Race equity must be centered as a core goal of social impact across the sector in order to achieve our true potential and fulfill our organizational missions. The goal of this publication was to identify the personal beliefs and behaviors, cultural characteristics, operational tactics, and administrative practices that accelerate measurable progress as organizations move through distinct phases toward race equity.
One important way that trustees can champion their museums is to become engaged in advocacy efforts that support their museum’s best interests. As citizen leaders, trustees play a unique role in representing the community benefits that museums provide back to the public they serve.
Every nonprofit has its own unique history, culture, and mission, and, therefore, its own view regarding advocacy. But, no matter where you are on the continuum—from doing no advocacy to doing a lot—the path toward greater impact through advocacy begins with an honest conversation in the boardroom—a conversation about your museum’s mission, goals, and, most importantly, its vision for the future.
This report, in partnership with BoardSource, is a discussion guide for museum leaders to help you start that conversation.
Researched and prepared in partnership with Oxford Economics with support from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, this comprehensive report quantifies the economic benefit of museums, including jobs, direct spending, and supply-chain effects. The numbers tell an indisputable story about museums as true economic engines for their communities, supporting jobs and wages that are vital to the health of their hometowns.
This free report explores four key questions about what Americans really think of museums. Conducted jointly by AAM and Wilkening Consulting, the study was fielded by the market research experts at Ipsos. The results overwhelmingly demonstrate the high degree to which Americans believe in and support their museums, regardless of political affiliation, geographic location, and whether they visit museums or not.
In Board Power, Dana Whitelaw discusses what happened when the High Desert Museum lost state funding and how current and former trustees sprang into action.
Get Resources and Tools
AAM’s Resource Library is a benefit of membership and contains dozens of helpful tools, example documents, and guidelines concerning professional practices and governance in museums.
A few of the resources for trustees from AAM’s Resource Library include:
- Board Accountability and Ethics
- Board Structure
- Governing Documents for a Board
- Promoting Board Effectiveness
- Board Member Recruiting and Orientation
- Board Roles and Relationship to Staff
- Succession Planning
Learn from the Experts
In addition to the resources and reports above from AAM, members have access to a library of online webinars that cover topics concerning museum leadership and governance.
Contact Grace Stewart, Assistant Director, Equity and Inclusion
T: 202.289.9102 | F: 202.289.6578