Why Board Chairs Are Awesome

Geraldine Ysselstein, Arts Leadership Director



What makes an AWESOME Board Chair?


This is the question I asked myself and others as I began to develop the guidelines and criteria for the new Rozsa Award for Excellence in Board Leadership.

Who is this unique individual who is so passionate about an artistic vision that they will volunteer all their spare time and more time for a not-for-profit arts organization? This individual who can balance, connect, lead, listen, support, challenge, advocate, inspire, and more.


As I embarked on my research, I asked: what are the characteristics of a good Board Chair, what does the Board Chair need to be knowledgeable of in terms of best practices, how do the roles of Board Chair and Executive Director complement each other, and what is the relationship of the Board Chair to not only the Executive Director; but, also to the Artistic Director, Artists, Board Members, Staff & Volunteers, Community, Donors, and Funders?

I learned that assessing the success of a Board Chair isn't as simple as looking at the success of their organization, but that the nature of their working relationship to the Artistic and/or Executive Director and the rest of the board is the key starting point to determine how well they're doing their work.

Board Chairs are awesome because they are self-motivated to learn about their role & responsibility within an arts organization, they encourage board members and staff to be their best selves, and they are the most enthusiastic supporters both within and outside of their arts organization.

And it isn’t an easy job. Board Chairs need to navigate fiscal responsibility, legalities, recruitment, crisis, relationships, tension, and risk. And they need to do all of this with thoughtful and strategic foresight, oversight, and insight.

This coming year, I am excited to learn more about these awesome individuals and share the success stories of Board Chairs in Alberta.


If you are an awesome Board Chair, we encourage you to apply for the Rozsa Award for Excellence in Board Leadership by June 7th.

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