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Showing posts from September, 2010

Building the Trust Factor

A MUSEUM STUDIES CLASS IS ABOUT TO LAUNCH A planning process with a local historical society as part of a semester-long project this fall.  As a preliminary activity, one of the students (who is responsible for the outreach portion of the project) and I chatted yesterday about my take on organizational planning.  We covered a lot of ground and a lot of the basic elements of a solid planning process:  vision, mission, where do goals come from?; how much outreach can you suggest an all-volunteer organization do?; as well as the more mundane how much can you devote to this class project when you're a busy student with tons of other claims on your time? That aside, I encourage my grad student friend to spend considerable time at the beginning getting the board to engage in the emotion-based discussions about why their organization is important, who it serves and what impact it can make on the lives of its audiences, its neighborhood, and its larger community.  These are critical conver…

A Scalable Recipe for Getting Out of Financial Trouble

THE ARTICLE I JUST READ ABOUT THE COLUMBUS SYMPHONY ending its season just a hair's breath in the black is cause for celebration in many ways.  As symphonies across the country struggle, merge or outright die, the Columbus Symphony turnaround is worth taking a look at.  What was the secret from going from a projected deficit of more than $1 million to a surplus of $200,000?  Were there lessons for the rest of us embedded in the experience? In a nutshell, here's what symphony leadership did: secured major corporate/foundation support, admittedly much of that was already in the pipeline, but the lesson here is that you don't give up on fundraising in a tough economy, you work the hell out of itsecured municipal support -- a tough sell right now, but one likely built on strong economic arguments.  Do you know how much your cultural organization contributes to your local economy? If not, you're overdue in pulling that information together.musicians are now in their third ye…

The Telltale Signs of Trouble

MY MENTAL LIST OF CULTURAL ORGANIZATIONS ABOUT TO GO UNDER was significantly lengthened this week.  Just yesterday a neighbor told me that a small environmental/ natural history research organization she works with was about to fold.  She was told that the board was casting around for a place to transfer the organization's collections of books, maps, photos and videos (although no one knows exactly where that will be despite the fact that they may have to shut their doors in a couple of weeks).  
The day before that, a colleague called to say she was retiring from her organization and that there's a movement afoot to dissolve it (not her doing).  A third organization has burned through its endowment fund to the point where some board members think it's time to close the whole place down.  
That's all in just the last week. I've been hearing for a long time that the pace of consolidations and dissolutions in the nonprofit sector would speed up as the recession deepened…