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Organizational Structure: BoD, AD, ED, Oh my!

Hello ChoralNet!

In preparation for some big changes with my own choir, I'm wondering what the typical organizational heirarchy of a non-profit community choir looks like. Specifically, for those groups out there large enough to warrant an Executive Director, what is the relationship between the Board of Directors, the Artistic Director (or Music Director), and the Executive Director? 
There are three potential structures that I am aware of:
1) The AD reports to the Board, and the ED reports to the AD.
2) The ED reports to the Board, the AD reports to the ED.
3) The AD and ED both report to the Board; neither position is inherently superior to the other. The AD handles artistic decisions and music staff, the ED handles administrative work and staff.
Further, what role does the Board Chair and/or Executive Committee play in your organization?
Thanks in advance for sharing your thoughts,
Jacob Winkler
Artistic Director
Seattle Girls' Choir
Replies (7): Threaded | Chronological
on June 3, 2014 4:29am
Jacob - As a founding Artistic Director, our ED reports to me, our administrator to the ED . . . we all are subject to the Board of course.  This happened because I started my choir.  Our ED has been with me since I hired her 11 years ago!  It is good fit.
Our Board has 11 members, both community and parent based and meets quarterly.  Our president, a non-parent attorney does not play a role in the day-to-day operating and in our 33 year history, they never have.  Ditto for our Executive Committee members.
Good luck to you and your organization!
My best,
Bill Adams
Fort Bend Boys Choir of Texas
on June 3, 2014 5:36am
You would do well to check out the book Managing the Successful Chorus, published by Chorus America. They have several other great resources along just these lines. I can't recommend them highly enough as capturing best practices.
Personally, I'm for the setup where the AD and ED are lateral peers and both report to the board. There is inherent tension there, but if the AD and ED work together well (as is the case at Chicago a cappella), there is also a natural division of labor that is excellent. No one size fits all, but I like this one a lot. The Board Chair is one of the most important roles in the organization, and it's essential that there be good foresight and succession planning for that role. I can tell you more if you like, and it's probably better and faster in a phone call, so shoot me an e-mail to the address below and we can set up a call.
Come to Chorus America's conference each June and get first-hand consultations from the experts -- it's the #1 place to be for this stuff.
Jonathan Miller
Chicago a cappella
on June 3, 2014 9:30am
Hi Jonathan,

I'm not seeing Managing the Successful Chorus on the Chorus America site, but I'm about to order copies of both The Chorus Leadership Guide and Conductors Count: What Chorus Boards, Music Directors, and Administrators Need to Know from them... Good heads up!

Keep the comments coming folks, this is a great help!
on June 3, 2014 10:42am
Ha! I mentioned this to my Office Manager, and she turned around and pulled out a copy of Leading the Successful Chorus, by Matthew Sigman, published by Chorus America in 2002. Is that the book you were referring to, Jonathan?
on June 3, 2014 12:09pm
First, you need to get a strategic plan in place, which addresses your long term vision.
The problem with the AD and ED being co-equals is you end up with a "two-headed monster," and some of their functions are antagonistic. This is especially true if you have a strong AD who takes an overall interest in marketing and administration. Your overall staff is overbalanced on the executive staff, which pulls resources from your line and support staff. Both executives grow envious of each other's compensation, and there is also fighting about the budget.
Generally, if you have a contract AD who is hands off, might even live out of area, gets paraded in for fundraisers, and has all the music handed to him/her on a silver platter, you want a strong ED or General Manager. In a children's chorus, where you have multiple levels and run the organization as a school, this model can work. It's also good if you have an AD who wants to spend spend spend and nobody to stand up to her/him to say no because he/she's a diva superstar. For a chorus that rehearses one evening a week, you can end up with excessive capacity if you have a full time artistic director. What is he/she doing the rest of the week? Churches get into this problem as well.
If the AD is hands on and full time, you might place the ED underneath him/her and rename the position "Managing Director." This has worked well for our organization, but it took quite a bit of introspection and investment in outside consultants to come up with it as a solution. The managing director should still deliver board reports, but it is clear he/she takes orders from the AD and is there to implement the AD's vision.
An important issue in board development is understanding the distinction between management and governance. A board should not manage; this is the staff's job. Sometimes it's unavoidable in a smaller organization, and it is typical of founding boards to overmanage. A key reminder is the board is never in charge unless it is sitting in a board meeting. At all other times no board member, even an officer, has the authority to command the staff. 
on June 11, 2014 12:42pm
Hi folks, bumping this thread in the hopes of getting some more responses. Thanks! - Jake
on June 27, 2014 9:44am
One more bump then I'll leave it alone!
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