“Bad” Boards and Good Intentions

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January 24, 2013; Source: Independent Record

Here we go again with yet another story of a board that has apparently been snoozing while the finances head south. Venture Theatre in Billings, Mont. is a small operation with outsized debt. The Independent Record describes its current situation as a “tied to the train tracks scenario,” but when one looks at what is owed, one may wonder how those in charge didn’t notice the train bearing down for the last two years. Venture owes approximately $120,000 to $130,000, including $60,000 in payroll taxes, payments on its building, and payments on a revolving loan from the city of Billings that have not been made in a year. Meanwhile, the organization fired its executive, but where oh where was the board during all of this?

Granted, this is a largely volunteer organization, but it did have expenses of approximately $500,000 last year and the board is ultimately responsible for the prudent oversight of that. Still, the board is stepping up, taking responsibility and vowing to pay off all creditors. The problems came to light when the board decided to hire an accountant for the first time in a number of years. Darci Hertz, the accountant, said that Venture’s board members were not in the habit of approving the group’s IRS Form 990 statements.

But, reading behind the lines, there may be a good deal of hidden non-cash capital here, because there have, as yet, been no liens filed against the nonprofit and it has to date managed to raise about $30,000 through community donations. An unpaid interim director has been named and the organization seems poised to weather this storm – albeit a storm that might not have been so bad were it not for the board’s prior inattention. –Ruth McCambridge