Nonprofit Arts Boards: Sustainability Does Not Equal Survival – Sometimes, it’s Best to Close Up Shop

Laughing republicans

Simplistically speaking, charities are like scientific experiments — unemotional methods to gain insight.

Sometimes, we make conclusions based on these experiments with the bias of survival as a sustaining strategy.

In nonprofit arts organizations, boards often conclude that their organization should last for some version of forever.  It’s the biggest mistake a nonprofit arts organization board can make.

Sometimes, it’s time to close, not out of failure, but out of symptoms/findings:

  • Chasing dollars with dollars
  • Last-ditch “give us a million by next month or we’ll go out of business” campaigns
  • Capital campaigns that mask company debt
  • Doing off-mission work that “pays for” the mission-oriented work
  • Unwritten HR policies that permanently institutionalize attrition
  • No quantifiable proof of external impact

Boards – no shame to close an organization when findings lead you to that conclusion, even when your finances are sound.

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