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Board Leadership Training

ArtsFund keeps an eye to the future by training a new generation of arts leaders. Through its Board Leadership Training program, ArtsFund equips current and future board members with the skills needed to help arts organizations be successful financially and artistically.

A well-trained and effective board of directors is essential to a nonprofit’s success. ArtsFund introduced its Board Leadership Training program in 1999 to teach committed volunteers to be highly effective board members. In 23 years, nearly 1000 individuals have graduated from the program.

This six-session training program is taught by a faculty of the region’s top nonprofit experts. Participants receive 12 hours of instruction covering fiscal and legal responsibilities, fundraising, strategic planning, racial equity, and governance.

REGISTRATION FOR THE FALL 2022 SESSION IS CLOSED. The next series of Board Leadership Training will be offered in spring 2023. To receive notification when registration for the Spring session opens, sign-up here


Session 1: Building Leadership Capacity
Thursday, October 27, 4:00-6:30 p.m.
Presenter: Dwight Gee

Practices of a high-performance board. What makes some organizations and their boards soar? Practical steps can make the difference, like ensuring that board meetings focus on the issues that matter most, and that the meetings thoroughly engage the thoughts and wisdom of all board members. The session will cover a wide range of practices you can put to work at your organization, from building agendas for effective and engaging board meetings, to addressing issues of board-staff roles, to recruiting and orienting members, to encouraging different ways of thinking to address key organizational issues.  The tips from this session will help ensure that both you and your nonprofit get the most from your service as a director.

Session 2: Staying Solvent, Knowing the Numbers
Thursday, November 3, 4:30-6:30 p.m.
Presenter: Ray Ishii

Financial stewardship of your nonprofit. Who is ultimately responsible for the tax returns, budgets, and financial statements of a nonprofit? This session reviews fiduciary duties of directors and examines concrete examples of the documents you’ll need to know.

Session 3: Racial Equity in Board Practices
Thursday, November 10, 4:30-6:30 p.m.
Presenter: Jasmine Jamillah Mahmoud, PhD

Applying an equity lens to leadership. What is the board’s role in your organization when it comes to racial equity work and inclusion? This interactive discussion focuses on board opportunities and responsibilities in steps such as addressing board diversity, building authentic engagement in community, and how to launch into the racial equity conversation.

Session 4: Board Service and Legal Stewardship
Thursday, November 17, 4:30-6:30 p.m.
Presenter: Beth McCaw

What are your legal responsibilities and duties? This session examines the fiduciary responsibilities of a nonprofit Board as well as best governance practices.

Session 5: Setting the Direction
Thursday, December 1, 4:30-6:30 p.m.
Presenter: Anne Shukla

Engaging in Strategic Planning to envision the future. How can we set the course for an organization when the future feels uncertain? This session will examine traditional strategic planning concepts and explore how to apply them to different types of arts organizations. We will also explore the role of various stakeholders in the planning process – how can boards and staff work together to develop a plan that meets the needs of the communities we serve?

Session 6: Capitalizing Nonprofit Missions
Thursday, December 8, 4:30-6:30 p.m.
Presenter: Christine O’Connor

Annual, facility, and endowment fundraising. A nonprofit board must ensure the organization has adequate resources to carry out its work. For nearly every board member, this means fundraising. Note that this session is not fundraising training. Rather, it will give an understanding of how a board should engage in fundraising and what questions to ask when launching capital or endowment campaigns and hiring consultants.


Eligibility: The program is open to current arts organization board members, ArtsFund Visionaries, and representatives from our corporate partners (priority is given to board members of ArtsFund’s Cultural Partners Network).

Cost: $150 total; complimentary for ArtsFund Visionaries. Payment will be collected upon admission to the program. Cost should not be a barrier to participation and financial aid is available upon admission if needed. Please contact BLT@artsfund.org with any questions.

Expectations: Participation in a minimum of 5 out of 6 training sessions is required. 100% attendance with video on strongly encouraged. Up to 1 hour of pre-work may be assigned per week

Timing: Board Leadership Training is offered twice annually, once in the fall and once in the spring.

Location: Sessions will be held on Zoom.


Dwight Gee is a former Executive Vice President of The World Justice Project. He established the Board Leadership Training program as Executive Vice President of ArtsFund where he worked from 1989-2011. Dwight was two-term board president of FareStart, and was Chair of the visiting committee of Seattle University’s Masters in Nonprofit Leadership Program. In 2002, as consultant to the Soros Foundation, he helped establish an arts council in Mongolia. As a volunteer, he serves as president of a US-based nonprofit to support Mongolian culture.

Ray Ishii, CPA, is the owner of Ishii & Associates, LLC, and has over 30 years’ finance, accounting, and management experience. He provides tax and business consulting services to individuals, small businesses, and nonprofit organizations. As former CFO of several nonprofit organizations, Ray has extensive senior management experience including strategic planning, systems development, and complex project financing. He has been an instructor at Seattle University and University of Washington – Bothell for over 15 years teaching both undergraduate and graduate tax and accounting courses. In addition, Ray has volunteered on the boards of several nonprofit organizations including the Pike Place Market, FareStart, Urban League of Metropolitan Seattle, and Wing Luke Museum.

Jasmine Jamillah Mahmoud, PhD, is Assistant Professor of Theatre History and Performance Studies at the University of Washington. A curator, arts advocate, and historian of art and performance, her research engages contemporary arts, critical race studies, cultural policy, and geography. She co-edited Makeshift Chicago Stages (Northwestern University Press 2021), and her writing appears in academic journals and community publications including the South Seattle Emerald. Previously faculty at Seattle University and Washington University in St. Louis, she taught classes including “Black Lives Matter: Art, Theory, Practice.” She serves as a Gov. Inslee-appointed Washington State Arts Commissioner, and Board Vice President of On the Boards.

Beth McCaw is the former President & CEO of Washington Women’s Foundation and, before that, practiced law, most recently with Stokes Lawrence, P.S.  Beth’s legal practice focused on estate planning, gift and estate taxation, probate and trust administration, charitable giving, and the law of tax-exempt organizations. She currently serves on the Board of Directors of The Seattle Times, Bellevue LifeSpring, and the Auction of Washington Wines and is the past Board Chair of numerous nonprofit organizations, including Book-It Repertory Theatre.  Beth received a Masters in Not-for-Profit Leadership from Seattle University in 2000.

Anne Shukla is a program evaluation and strategic planning expert with over 20 years of experience in the nonprofit sector. She currently serves as a Strategic Advisor for the City of Seattle. Previously, she was the Reporting and Evaluation Manager at YouthCare and a Senior Consultant at MEMconsultants, focusing on arts education and youth development organizations. She has also served as an adjunct faculty member at Seattle University, teaching Program Evaluation and Strategic Planning for students in the Nonprofit Leadership and Arts Leadership graduate programs. She holds an MFA in Arts Leadership from Seattle University.

Christine O’Connor has served as an arts manager, management consultant and executive recruiter for more than three decades. In addition to her work with the national consulting firm AlbertHall&Associates, where her clients included Sundance Institute, Guthrie Theatre, South Coast Rep, Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Seattle Rep, and 5th Avenue Theatre, among others, she served in senior staff roles for Seattle Rep, Center Theatre Group, American Conservatory Theatre, and San Francisco Opera, managing major endowment, capital, and annual fund programs. She has taught arts management courses at Seattle University’s MFA program in Arts Leadership, UW’s Evans School, UW Extension, San Francisco State U., and is a contributing author for Theatre Communications Group’s book The Art of Governance.

For more information, contact BLT@artsfund.org.