Tag Archives: humanity

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.”

Advertisements

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.

Nonprofit Arts Organizations Without Flexibility Present a Disconnect When It Really Matters

Orlando

On September 12, 2001, we issued an internal memo at our nonprofit arts organization.  We proffered the notion that standing by our programming and “moving forward” was the best way to fight back.

We were wrong.  Putting on blinkers never helps.

On June 12, 2016, after one attack in Orlando and a foiled one in Santa Monica – key nonprofit arts organizations are right now readying memos rationalizing the same advice.

Move forward.  That’ll show ‘em.

At what tipping point do we scrap activities to reflect the damage inflicted on people?  Why must we wait for a year to see the first artistic responses?  Why not now?  Why worry about the production quality of said response?  As nonprofits, when do we sacrifice our comfort zone to provide leadership to our communities for some resolution?

Or should we just move forward?  Yet again?

“See a Need, Fill a Need” (As Long as Your Arts Aren’t the Need)

What’s the biggest societal issue in your personal world?

Americans in April named their list.  What’s yours?

Economy, racial injustice, government dissatisfaction, immigration, terrorism.  Unsolvable as big issues.  Possibly solvable as small ones.

Hunger in your neighborhood?  Support the food bank.  Find ways for it to thrive so that many can survive without resorting to lawlessness.

Specific racial and income injustice in your town?  Support the agencies that convene and expose the problems to the light.  Find ways to gather people together who might never otherwise come together – and de-mythologize the stereotypes of the bad [ethnics – fill in your own blank] or the bad [other ethnics] or the bad [government officials], etc.

And do it using your art as a tool.

How?

You now have step A and step Z.  Just fill in steps B through Y.

Artists and Non-Offensiveness: The Tyranny of Over-Sensitivity, Feelings, and Participation Trophies

safespaces

There’s a troubling trend.  There’s an absurd unwillingness to offend that seems pervasive among arts creators.

Not that creators are creating “Pleasant Art,” per se.  Writers and artists are creating lots of work that is designed to make audiences uncomfortable.  Which is good.  The work may be about single issues and not terribly complex, but it’s good.

However, there are too many artists raised in atmospheres where everyone wins, even when they lose.  In the name of inclusion and self-esteem, they live in a world where, like toddlers, “feeling bad” is simply unacceptable.

They believe they’re special.

To these artists:

  1. You are not special.
  2. You do not deserve success.
  3. Sometimes you lose.

It’s what you do with that information that defines you.

If you believe that nobody should ever have hurt feelings, you’re not doing your job.

Arts Organizations: 137th Post, 137 Thanks, and 137 (of Other People’s) Words That Guide Inspiring Leaders

erasse2

“We must reject the idea — well-intentioned, but dead wrong – that the primary path to greatness in the social sectors is to become “more like a business.” Most businesses…fall somewhere between mediocre and good.” (Collins)

“If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away.” (Thoreau)

“People don’t buy WHAT you do, they buy WHY you do it.” (Sinek)

“When they say things like, we’re going to do this by the book, you have to ask, what book? Because it would make a big difference if it was Dostoevsky or, you know, ‘Ivanhoe.'” (Anderson)

“‘To be is to do.’ (Socrates)  ‘To do is to be.’ (Sartre)  ‘Do be do be do.’ (Sinatra)” [Vonnegut compilation]

How You Can Solve Diversity With Your Nonprofit Arts Organization!

race

You can’t.

Arts organizations challenge, reflect, and engage.  They don’t solve.

And remember, race is only one small bit of cultural diversity, not all of them.  Just as the opposite of love isn’t “hate,” but “indifference;” the opposite of diverse isn’t “white,” but “homogeneous.”

I read a political blog recently about the Democratic Party presidential race.  What troubled me were these words:

“What I’m crossing my fingers for is that in ten years or so we’ll get… a young,
charismatic democratic socialist who runs for president. (Preferably this
candidate would be a woman or a non-white person or, ideally, both.)”

Isn’t that parenthetical statement just as intolerant as one where “not” had been inserted after “would?”

Diversity isn’t only about race or gender or any of myriad other categories.  It’s about power, shared equally, with specific impact.

“In This Scene, Could You Be a Little Funnier?” – A Perspective on Performance Reviews

7b9ba29042c4cce4a2af9c7581f20f3c

“Fire ’em the first time you think about it.” This was the mantra of the board chair of a company with which I was affiliated. I’ve always appreciated the portion that means that I should know when things are not working with a company or individual – from the perspective of employer or employee.

Which brings me to performance reviews. Gack. Many formal performance reviews within arts organizations waste time and energy and breed unnecessary anxiety.  That’s not to say that you shouldn’t do them – but do them continually rather than once a year or when a contract demands it.

If your company has a horrible work environment, a performance review is about as helpful as a Band-Aid on a heart attack. Similarly, if the environment is open-minded, so should your inter-reactions.  You’ll know if it’s working out.

There’s Not An App for That

I want to donate to your theatre, not your CRM

There are an endless number of costly, effective CRM systems for the arts.  One costs hundreds of thousands of dollars and it’s superb at what it does.

One might say, “It had better be.”

Before that expensive, expansive piece of software, there were others.  Some great at some things, some at others.

Not one of these pieces of software ever raised a dime.  People do that.

Not one of these pieces of software ever performed, exhibited, or created a compelling artistic experience.  People do that.

Not one of these pieces of software ever governed, advocated, cajoled, or counseled. People do that.

Before CRMs that cost various ulnae, fibulae, and tibiae, there were inexpensive off-the-shelf database software solutions.

Before that, we did it all on paper.

Millions attended.  Millions still do.

And the best relationships are still person-to-person.

Chief Instigation Officer: That’s Your Job, Too

organ-grinder

A development director once told me that she worked “on behalf of donors.”  No, not really.  You work on behalf of the mission.

A marketing director once told me that “it’s all about the money.” No, not really.  It’s all about the mission.

An artistic director once told me “we do it for the art.”  No, not really.  We do it to execute the mission.

Unless the mission, well, sucks.

Often it has fallen to me to gently (and sometimes not so gently) advise that without a compelling, singular mission that speaks to a specific, measurable societal improvement, a nonprofit arts organization is merely exchanging entertainment for money — like an organ grinder’s monkey, begging for pennies.

You are there to solve a problem.  Make sure your company stands for something outside your little corner of the operation.

Rancho Santa Fe Dinosaurs and Behemoth Nonprofit Arts Organizations

drought3
Washington Post reported that some uber-wealthy Rancho Santa Fe, California dinosaurs refuse to conserve water in the worst drought in California history.  Consumption there is up 9% (the only area in California increasing consumption), because, as one resident put it:  “We should not be forced to live on property with brown lawns, golf on brown courses or apologize for wanting our gardens to be beautiful.”

Why?  See below for the answer to “Why do dogs lick their genitalia?”

The nonprofit arts industry deserves support.  No question.  “Arts and culture policies and programs increase economic development in states by attracting businesses, creating new jobs, increasing tax revenues and promoting tourism.”  National Conference of State Legislatures

But when “Indominus rex” institutions drink up inordinate percentages of funding (larger than their share of the market), is it just…

“because they can?”

If I ignore you, then you don’t exist! Hey! Why are you still there, existing???

Recent impressions from an interview for a development director position at a well-known theatre.

Managing director picks me up at airport. Interviews me in car.  First impression… he drives, in more ways than one.

Dinner for eight. Laughs, rowdiness, and Malbec. Second impression…an uninhibited group.

The play.  Well-performed one-man show.  Third impression…no money.

The interview marathon. 6½ hours, no breaks. Fourth impression: disorganized thinkers.

Complete silence. For over two months, despite leaving message for managing director on his cell.  Fifth impression: brutal place to work.

Sent email taking myself out of the search. Direct quote from board president: “I don’t know the protocol in the nonprofit world. In the engineering world, where [we] are both from, you don’t hear anything unless you are hired.”  Final impression: they’re horrible at human relations…must be why they have no money.

%d bloggers like this: