This past Sunday’s Los Angeles Times featured an in depth look at the board of the beleaguered Museum of Contemporary Art, or MOCA. The article highlights expert views on the makings of a good board and contrasts best practices with the recent actions of the MOCA board of trustees.
In the course of identifying the major challenges faced by MOCA’s trustees, Times staff writer Mike Boehm provides a mini-primer on issues faced by boards of every size and location. This makes the article a recommended read for anyone who serves on a board or runs a nonprofit organization. Dissecting the composition of the MOCA board and the way it operates, Boehm provides details on each of the board’s 39 trustees and paints a picture of dysfunction and discord. For example, among other questions, he asks how a museum whose board includes 5 billionaires and trustees whose total wealth exceeds $24 billion can be in financial distress. In our practice at The Law Firm for Nonprofits, we often encounter similar challenges. They can be as wrenching to the board of an organization with a 5 or small 6-figure budget as they can to the board of a multi-million dollar nonprofit.
As good as the boards on which we serve may be, each of us can learn something by studying other organizations and reflecting on our own actions. We may each see a bit of ourselves or our boards when reading this article and use that recognition to head off impending challenges.