Tag Archives: worst practices

Talk to Me Like I’m 10: a Lesson in Long-Term Planning for Artistic Directors and Board Chairs

talk to me like I'm 10.jpg

Does long-term planning cause a rift between your artistic director and those other people?

Does it cause discord between your board chair and those other people?

Seen all the time among arts charities:  carefully (and successfully) executed annual development plans reduced to rubble after the board institutes a high-priced capital campaign.  The capital campaign sucks up all in its path, causing 5 years of stakeholder repair.  Indispensable Chair happy.  Staff leaves.

Artistic directors substituting their taste for vision and their personal and professional relationships for core values.  Idiosyncrasy obviates mission.  Indispensable AD happy.  Board leaves.

Both cases: company imperiled, stakeholders leaving.

Time to create an action plan, written at a 5th grade level.  Make it about impact rather than income.  Test the theory that your arts nonprofit is indispensable.  Make sure that your most important stakeholders don’t leave.


Change Management and the Psychology of Surprise


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.


Stay tuned.

Good and Bad in Charity Funding

Milk, Nicolas Cage’s acting; mugs saving trees or cups saving wash water; bottled water — good or bad?


Unrestricted funding.

Ice Buckets/Challenges (unless you’re Charity:Water. Then bad.)

Matching gifts.

Nihil Pro Quo.

Public funding.

Multi-year gifts.

Endowments that cover >20% of the organization’s annual budget.

In-kind gifts that are already in the budget.

Thousands of low-level donors.

Dozens of high-level donors.

100% of trustees/board members donate.

100% of trustees/board members donate one of the 3 highest gifts they give all year.

100% of employees want to at least donate $1.


Funding restricted to programs unsupported by the mission.

Funding restricted to vanity projects.

Quid pro quo.

Corporations choosing charities via popularity contests/computer click-offs.

Large donations that overly entitle either donor or recipient.

Endowments that cover <20% of the organization’s annual budget.

Panicky, deleterious “Going-Out-Of-Business-Unless-We-Raise-Millions-By-Tuesday” funding schemes.

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