Board Life Cycle Pop Quiz

Are you a performing arts organization executive or board member? If so, then get ready because today’s post is a pop quiz.

  1. According to Julia Classen, co-founder and president of Aurora Consulting, Inc., adjunct faculty member at the University of Minnesota’s Hubert Humphrey School of Public Affairs, and a senior fellow at the Minnesota Council of Nonprofits (fit that on a business card, I dare you!), which of the following is not a typical stage for board cycles?
    1. Founding Period
    2. Supermanaging Phase
    3. Corporate Phase
    4. Ratification Phase
    5. Dissolution Phase
  2. Which of the following characteristics best describes a board’s Founding Period?
    1. New board members defer to the judgement and expertise of the executive until a crisis occurs.
    2. Board focus may shift more toward good governance and accountability.
    3. Boards depend on executive and staff to lead.
  3. Which of the following characterizes best describes a board’s Corporate Phase?
    1. Regularly scheduled committee meetings with detailed agendas.
    2. Board members transition from running day to day operations to hiring a professional staff.
    3. Board meetings are more about approving prepared motions than oversight or strategic responsibilities.
  4. Which of the following characterizes is not part of a board’s Supermanaging Phase?
    1. Boards begin recruiting members with specific skill sets and experience.
    2. Improved governance and accountability.
    3. Increased focus on mission and oversight.

Everything you need to verify the correct answers can be found in a recent article by Joe Patti’s at  Patti distills the salient points on board life cycles from Julia Classen’s longer article on the topic at

Granted, you should take the time to read both articles, but if all of this is new to you or you simply like shorter, easy to digest versions of things, start with Patti’s piece.

Stages of Board Life Cycle

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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