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Katie Skovholt assumes role of General Manager, Seattle Pro Musica

Seattle Pskovhholtro Musica is excited to welcome Katie Skovholt as our new General Manager, effective October 5, 2010. She comes to Seattle Pro Musica with a strong background in both vocal music and business administration, as well as a life-long love of choral music. Her brief bio is below. Please join us in welcoming Katie to the Seattle Pro Musica staff!


Katie Skovholt worked for Pacific Lutheran University since 2004, where she most recently held the position of Senior Administrative Assistant with the School of Arts & Communication. She earned her Bachelor of Music Education degree from PLU in 2006, and completed her Master of Business Administration coursework in 2010.

She also currently serves as Director of Music Ministries at Prince of Peace Lutheran Church. Katie is an avid participant in musical theatre, both on- and off-stage, and has recently worked with Lakewood Playhouse, Tacoma Musical Playhouse, and Vashon Opera.

Board organization for the community choir

by Karen P. Thomas
R&S NW Division Chair for Community Choirs
Artistic Director and Conductor of Seattle Pro Musica

thomasAt the NW Division Convention in Vancouver in February 2008 I presented an interest session on Organizational Principals for Community Choirs, with a focus on board organization, marketing and development. There was significant interest among community choir directors to share further information, prompting this article on board organization.

A strong and high-functioning Board of Directors is crucial to the growth of not-for-profit choral groups, whether community-based or professional. A committed board comprised of knowledgeable members can be of tremendous help to the conductor and choir, both in the daily operations of the organization and in strategizing for future growth.

Basic organization
Chances are, you already have legally established your choir as a not-for-profit organization. However, if you are just starting out, you’ll want to do that. You can apply for 501(c)(3) status with IRS form 1023 ( Among other things, 501(c)(3) status makes it possible for individuals to donate to your organization and claim it as a charitable donation on their individual tax form. You will obtain federal tax ID number for your 501(c)(3) status. You’ll need to draw up articles of incorporation and bylaws and file them with the state in which you do business. It may be possible to find an attorney who would offer pro-bono services to assist you. The website  provides a listing of Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts organizations in different states, with contact information.

Organizational mission
An organizational mission statement is of crucial importance, and should be carefully crafted. It guides everything that the organization and the board do. When there is disagreement among board members, choir members, and/or staff members, the mission statement should help provide clarity regarding appropriate actions to be taken.

Structure and governance
It’s important to have clarity regarding the structure and governance model for your Board of Directors. A major question facing every independent choir is “Will we be best served by a working board or a governance board?” For a small community choir with no paid staff, it’s likely that you will have a working board in which each board member directly contributes some form of work to the organization (ie, running a small fundraiser, stage managing concerts, writing press releases and marketing materials.) A larger choir with paid staff (even just one staff member) might be better served by a governance board, in which board members spend their time on such things as strategic planning, policy-setting, and fundraising.)

Responsibilities of the Board of Directors
There are some basic responsibilities for the board of any not-for-profit organization, including choral groups:

  • Ensure that the mission statement is accurate and that programs are consistent with mission
  • Ensure necessary financial resources
  • Ensure sound fiscal management and accountability, as well as legal and ethical integrity
  • Advocate for the organization, enhance the public image
  • Ensure effective organizational planning and evaluation
  • Hire, support and evaluate performance of music director and executive director
  • Support the organization’s programs
  • Maintain an effective board, recruit new board members, assess board performance

Responsibilities of individual board members
You will want to cultivate board members who can fulfill the responsibilities which individual board members will have. A helpful rule of thumb is to look for board members who will bring at least two of the Three W’s – wisdom, wealth, and work – to your organization.
Some specific responsibilities of board members include:

  • Commitment to the choir’s mission and values
  • Attendance and participation in board and committee meetings
  • Contribute financial support
  • Serve as an advocate for the organization in the community
  • Participate in fundraising
  • Careful stewardship of finances and resources
  • Attend the choir’s concerts, and invite others to attend
  • Abide by conflict-of-interest policies

Committee structure
The structure and number of board committees varies according to size of the board and size of the organization. In general, the committees should support the work of staff (or do the work if the choir has no administrative staff.) It’s helpful to involve non-board member volunteers on committees in order to spread the work around and gain the expertise of many people.
The most common board committees are:

  • Executive, comprised of the board officers (President, Vice-president, Secretary, Treasurer)
  • Finance
  • Marketing
  • Development (covers fundraising, grant-writing, donor cultivation)
  • Strategic Planning
  • Concert planning

Board development and retention
Having constituted a board of directors, the process of retaining good board members and finding new board members to replace those who move on is never-ending. Some basic strategies help to make the board experience more satisfying and effective for members, encouraging them to remain on the board and to help bring in new members:

  • Have clearly defined responsibilities for Board members (the new member will want to know what she/he is getting into!) This is especially important if your choir has paid staff members – it will be necessary to define the roles and responsibilities of staff and board members, and to maintain clarity and transparency.
  • create written expectations or job descriptions for board members
  • create board member orientation packet or handbook
  • have experienced board mentors to help new members
  • evaluate the work of the board (the board should evaluate its work, and recommend improvement)
  • Establish effective strategies for recruitment of new board members, with the entire board involved in recruitment
  • board diversity – you’ll want board members with differing areas of expertise, experience and external connections

Effective board meetings and processes
No one likes a poorly-run meeting, and people want to contribute in an effective manner and have their contributions valued. Some tips for effective board meetings:

  • A skilled Board President with good organizational and communication skills is crucial
  • Set the meeting calendar before the beginning of the year
  • Use a meeting agenda and stick to it
  • Meeting minutes with action items and assignments are helpful for keeping all board members on-task
  • Send meeting materials in advance so that members can prepare for discussion

I hope these few ideas are helpful in aiding choirs to make improvements to their board and organizational structure. Additionally, an excellent resource for nonprofit board members is BoardSource

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