Tag Archives: fan

Successful Nonprofit Arts Organizations, Like Successful Buildings, Depend on Successful Hierarchies

Gaudi

Level One:

Bricklayers.  Carpenters.  Stagehands.  Electricians.  Actors.  Musicians.  Painters.  Singers.  Writers.

Easy to find hacks.  Difficult to find experts.  Project-based.

 

Level Two:

Foremen.  Department heads.  Designers.  Curators.  Musical directors.

Small universe of successful ones.  More skills required.  Still project-based.  Work toward a larger goal than Level One, namely a finished piece.  Excellent collaboration skills.

 

Level Three:

Contractors.  Directors.

Smaller universe still.  Hire and manage Level One and Two (no requirement to perform at their skill level).  Work toward a slightly larger picture, although still project based.

 

Level Four:

Architects.  Executive/Artistic/General/Producing Directors.

Scarce universe of specialists.  Determine “what.”  Hire Level Three – several Level Threes, in fact.  Understand projects, themes, and cohesion.

 

Level Five:

Owners.  Boards.

Tiny, zealous universe.  Hire Level Four.  Determine “how.” Has personal stake.

 

Level Six:

The Community.  The Mission.

Top of the hierarchy.  Determines “why.”

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Feedback from You (yes, you): 9 Words That Describe the Nonprofit Arts Issues That Are Placing You at the End of Your Rope

rope

This blog, as most are, is pretty much one-way.  I share experiences, advice, consultation, and observations; you read ’em.  I can discuss 1,000 issues that affect nonprofit arts organizations.

But that’s me.

What keeps you up at night?

What concrete issue (not just “there’s no funding for…”) is fraying your rope?  Or better, what issues are figuratively tying a noose around the end of your rope?

Here’s your assignment.  In 9 words (no more, no less), write that issue and send it to info@137words.com.  That’s it.  Beginning in August, we’ll periodically take each issue and I’ll give my take.  Then we’ll open up the discussion to everyone who reads 137 Words.  Let me know if you’d like your name in or if you’d like to be anonymous.  And if you’d like my help privately, let me know that, too.

Organizational Health Can Be Measured by the Number of Donors Who Don’t Have to Give to Your Arts Organization

sparse crowd

How many non-board (or non-ex-board) members give to your arts organization?

How many non-staff members?

How many non-parents (if you do activities that include children)?

How many people who don’t attend your gala or other special event?

How many people who refuse donor benefits?

In other words, how many people donate simply based on your mission, programming, and activities; or by trusting a stakeholder of your mission, programming, and activities without expectation of a return?

Count the households of donors who donated all on their own.  If the number is small, create a special campaign to draw them in, even if the donation is a simple $50.  And thank them – they’re giving for no reason at all, except for unconditional love.

Ultimately, the health of your organization is measured by the number of those who unconditionally support it.

Change Management and the Psychology of Surprise

bluefin-tuna-feeding

I’m continually surprised by surprise announcements.

Seattle does not tolerate surprise announcements well.  I’m not sure of a place where surprises go well, but in a city fomenting the crucible of passive-aggressive behavior (see this article for some fun), change without tortuous committee meetings is, well, gauche.

Recently, KUOW (Greater Seattle NPR news/talk licensed by the University of Washington) issued a surprising announcement that they’ve signed a deal to buy KPLU (Greater Seattle NPR news/jazz licensed by Pacific Lutheran University).  Evidently, Pacific Lutheran University’s broke.

FYI:  KUOW once purchased another non-commercial station, KXOT, to carry its KUOW2 programming.  That failed.

Listeners/Members hate the idea and said so at a meeting on November 23. KPLU kept soliciting memberships even after the deal was signed.

KUOW comes off as untrustworthy, KPLU as desperate.

Seattleites are pissed off.

Surprise!

Stay tuned.

Aphorisms for the Modern Arts Charity Leader

Fortune Cookie

If it ain’t broke, break it. Then fix it.

You only read books in one direction.

Your legacy ends when you leave.

Institutional survival is not the goal.

Missions are gods; mission statements are bibles.

The best leaders are the best assistants.

Learn why before you continue.

Success is measured by impact, not excellence.

“Fiscal responsibility” is a business practice, not a mission statement.

Volunteers are employees who work for $0.

If your people are averaging 50+ hours a week, you’re failing.

Always use transitive verbs in your mission statements.

The cool kids are back in high school.

Sharpen your point of view; that’s why it’s a point.

Be completely, spectacularly wrong.

Treat candidates like employees.

Treat employees like human beings.

Treat human beings as though you are one.

Fire yourself regularly; interview yourself for your job.

Be funnier.

“Here we go, Rembrandt, here we go!” – Fans (who cheer) or audiences (who hear)?

“HOLD THAT NOTE! HOLD THAT NOTE!”

“PUSH ‘EM BACK! PUSH ‘EM BACK! NOW STEP, TOUCH, JETÉ AND HOLD!”

“S-C-E-N-E, SCEE-EEENE, SCEE-EEENE!”

Years ago, I sat in the third-to-top row of an NFL stadium with an artistic director friend.  First game of the season. Even people behind us were screaming their heads off and waving their foam fingers.  And the experience was more personally meaningful to them than many arts experiences I’ve loved.

Sports fans no more control the action of a game than arts fans do a play or concert. But they’re encouraged to be blitheringly engaged. And all too often, arts fans are encouraged to sit back and relax. Or shut up and listen. Like a lecture at school.

We wondered, can arts organizations find ways to encourage blithering? Or are we too clubby for that?

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