An article in the May 11th issue of Crain's New York Business ("Made in New York") explores why some manufacturing businesses are surviving despite the economy. It offers up five lessons, which I think have direct application for cultural nonprofits:
1. Be High-End
As the article states, "If you want your company to last, you need a lasting reputation for quality." Cultural nonprofits strive for this -- many say so in their missions; it's time to take stock of your Quality Factor and take steps to burnish it or boost it starting at the front door.
2. Be Local
"It pays to focus on the big, dense...market in your own backyard." Nurturing your local audience, however you might define that, returns dividends in the forms of membership retention, event attendance, and volunteerism, to name a few. Locals are here whether times are good or bad.
3. Be Networked
"It's crucial to surviving recession," the article states. Think of your basic networks: your members, your colleagues, your accountant and insurance agent. Think of your programmatic partners, the artists and technicians. Think of your funders and the media. How well do you connect and reconnect these relationships? Is your organization a connecting force or does it wait to be connected to others?
4. Be Lean
"Lean is based on two simple goals: creating the least amount of waste possible and producing only goods and services that customers truly value." This lean philosophy has been around the corporate world since the 1990s, but it's been spreading rapidly through the service sector. Many nonprofits might argue that one of the tenets of our sector has always been 'lean'. In the wake of this recession, though, nonprofits are revisiting the lean philosophy and finding merit in taking stock and understanding their audiences' needs better.
5. Be Nimble
How well does your nonprofit move to meet the changing or expanding needs of your audiences or your community? If a program isn't meeting expectations, can you tweak it or ditch it? Replace it with something new? For-profits that can quickly exploit a market niche have the edge, but it requires confident leadership and a certain amount of fearlessness. Can this apply to nonprofits, too?
These lessons could be the overarching structure for nonprofit strategic planning or business planning. What do you think?
Photo: Success Happens Here