Nonprofit Ethics In Academia

In an effort to expand on last week’s Ethics and Internal Culture article, it seemed reasonable to consider how the issue of executive ethics is addressed within the field of arts administration degree programs. And if you need some insight from that corner of the business, one of the best sources is Andrew Taylor; Director of the Bolz Center for Arts Administration, an MBA degree program and learning center in the Wisconsin School of Business.

I asked Andrew if his program includes any sort of dedicated ethics component.

I personally feel that ethics and responsible practice are essential elements of long-term success — for a leader, for a staff member, for a board member, and for an organization. While cutting corners often seems to bring immediate value for the short term, such lapses in honorable practice cost dearly in the long run. Arts organizations and leaders should lead the way in this regard within their communities, given the social, philanthropic, and symbolic importance of the work they do.

After a few follow-up exchanges, Andrew provided some additional insight when asked whether the course covers issues related to executive compensation.

Since our ethics course is part of our core MBA requirement, it’s not exclusive to nonprofit leadership (although it certainly explores the unique issues of nonprofit leadership). I’m not sure whether compensation is part of the current syllabus. But I know it has been in the past.

I’m curious to know what you think. Should tomorrow’s arts executives receive academic preparation with regard to what will ultimately become their own compensation issues? If so, what should that training include and why?

About Drew McManus

"I hear that every time you show up to work with an orchestra, people get fired." Those were the first words out of an executive's mouth after her board chair introduced us. That executive is now a dear colleague and friend but the day that consulting contract began with her orchestra, she was convinced I was a hatchet-man brought in by the board to clean house.

I understand where the trepidation comes from as a great deal of my consulting and technology provider work for arts organizations involves due diligence, separating fact from fiction, interpreting spin, as well as performance review and oversight. So yes, sometimes that work results in one or two individuals "aggressively embracing career change" but far more often than not, it reinforces and clarifies exactly what works and why.

In short, it doesn't matter if you know where all the bodies are buried if you can't keep your own clients out of the ground, and I'm fortunate enough to say that for more than 15 years, I've done exactly that for groups of all budget size from Qatar to Kathmandu.

For fun, I write a daily blog about the orchestra business, provide a platform for arts insiders to speak their mind, keep track of what people in this business get paid, help write a satirical cartoon about orchestra life, hack the arts, and love a good coffee drink.

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