- How frequently and deeply is the mission used to drive organizational goals and values?
- What is the role of the executive director vis-a-vis the board in financial stewardship?
- Besides finances, what are the biggest risks facing the institution?
- How can interaction among board members be enhanced?
- Is the needed mix of talent at the board table for now and the next five years?
- How can the level of information and idea exchange at board meetings be effectively increased?
- How can the board be more visible to the organization's constituents?
- What are the one or two factors that are critical to the board-director relationship?
- What changes in board structure or practices could enhance the organization's ability to fulfill its mission?
Friday, October 30, 2009
Tuesday, October 27, 2009
WHO'S READY TO MOVE FORWARD? WHO'S READY TO EXPLORE new and effective ways of addressing the seemingly intractable problems of the arts and cultural community, -- too many of us, too few resources to sustain us all, too many fiefdoms, unpredictably shifting audiences (to name but a few)? Who's willing to dig in deep enough to ensure that new approaches are sustainable for the long haul?
Who are the arts and cultural game changers right now? Here are three that come immediately to mind:
Michael Kaiser, President of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, created this year the “Arts in Crisis: A Kennedy Center Initiative,” a program providing free arts management consulting to non-profit performing arts organizations around the United States. The program has put Kaiser on the road to all 50 states, Puerto Rico, and the District of Columbia, hosting management symposia.
Maxwell Anderson, Director of the Indianapolis Museum of Art, has championed the use of multimedia and networked information to connect museum visitors with collections and promote greater transparency to the field and the public. His advocacy led the IMA to launch, in 2007, the first real-time museum dashboard, revealing over 50 fields of sensitive financial and performance data and soliciting commentary from the general public about the museum's commitment to openness. It is considered a gold standard among museums committed to transparency and accountability.
The Chattanooga Museum Collaboration has effectively proven that major institutions can pool functions and resources for the good of all and the community. The Tennessee Aquarium, Creative Discovery Museum and the Hunter Museum of American Art share common human resources, financial and technology management, as well as marketing -- even capital fundraising. A commitment to enhancing the city's quality of life, coupled with open and forward-thinking by board and staff leaders, has given this partnership resilience and staying power.
Who would you recommend? Yourself?
Friday, October 23, 2009
Wednesday, October 21, 2009
local history museum outlined many of the financial issues cultural institutions are grappling with right now. While programs continue apace by a small and increasingly overworked staff, the director said, "We're close to pulling out of the economic trauma, but it seems as though every time we get close, we fall back." She cited a confluence of issues at the base of which is the simple reality that there just isn't enough operating income being generated from any source to cover expenses.
Friday, October 9, 2009
- First, consider the self-assessment as a baseline of information/feedback from the board about how it does its work from the governance and organizational structure point of view.
- Give the board some time to review the findings and comments.
- Structure part of a board meeting (or several meetings or a retreat) around discussion of the findings.
- Focus primarily on areas of greatest discrepancy in responses. Spend some time delving into why some board members rated a statement weak while others rated it strong. Try to clear up discrepancies or reach consensus about them.
Can’t seem clear up discrepancies despite their importance? Make sure these issues are included in your strategic plan as strategies or tasks to be worked on by committees, staff, or task forces.
- Now focus on those statements rated by the majority of respondents as very weak or somewhat weak. Which statements does the group want to work on to strengthen? Which are not of concern for the group at this time?
Include areas that need strengthening as strategies or tasks in your strategic plan to be addressed by committees, staff, or task forces.
- Lastly, focus on the strong areas. How can the board use its strengths and attitudes to overcome its weaknesses?
- Take the self-assessment periodically to see how much progress you’re making. Use the assessment to benchmark successes and to identify areas that need continued attention.
Monday, October 5, 2009
THIS PARAGRAPH FROM A RECENT post by Dan Pallotta (his blog is Free the Nonprofits) has my head spinning. So, I’m just going to lay it all out there as best I can. Pallotta uses the Apollo space program as an example of a success because it had specific parameters – and resources – for achievement. He doesn’t see either in the current nonprofit sector.
Nearly 100 new nonprofits are created in the U.S. every day — about 35,000 a year — most of them doing the same things as existing organizations wrestling with the same social problems. Over 90% are very small — with less than half a million dollars in annual revenues. In his recent article in the Stanford Social Innovation Review, Mark Kramer wrote that, because of fragmentation, redundancy, and the plethora of small organizations "there is little reason to assume that [nonprofits] have the ability to solve society's large-scale problems." I would argue that it is precisely because we aren't committing ourselves to solving society's large-scale problems that we have fragmentation and redundancy.
Each nonprofit functions alone, pursuing the strategies that it deems best, lacking the infrastructure to learn from one another’s best practices, the clout to influence government, or the scale to achieve national impact. A majority of the very largest nonprofits that might have the resources to effect national change are hospitals, universities, and cultural organizations that focus primarily on their own institutional sustainability. Collaboration throughout the sector is almost impossible, as each nonprofit competes for funding by trying to persuade donors that its approach is better than that of any other organization addressing the same issue. Very few systematically track their own impact.This characterization of the nonprofit sector rings true for me on many levels. In New York State, where I live and do most of my work, cultural nonprofits abound. The economy is wreaking havoc with most of them and some will undoubtedly turn belly up (or have already), but that doesn’t seem to be a deterrent to folks wanting to start new ones. Just this past week, for example, I received an email asking for advice about shifting a for-profit art gallery to a non-profit “museum” and a phone call from a fellow who wants to get a group of museums together to occupy a vacant warehouse.
Contrast those conversations with the work of a core group of cultural nonprofits working together to plan a “happening” designed to attract 50,000 people precisely to raise the level of awareness of what each does among the public, business leaders and elected officials in their region. Now add to the mix a rather frustrating discussion at the Center for the Future of Museums’ blog about the definition of a museum.
Is it just me or is there an alarming lack of a clear view as to the place cultural nonprofits occupy in society? We struggle with defining what we do and the impact we make. Our governments are loathe to support arts and culture in any substantial way; nary a state agency (beyond the woefully underfunded arts council, perhaps) can articulate a cohesive vision for the importance of arts and culture to the life of its residents or its economy. Individual nonprofits can’t articulate visions for themselves, either.
Sure, we can say that the strength of the cultural sector is its diversity – there’s a nonprofit for practically every art form, every community, every community within a community. That’s how the sector works best. And, whoever said that cultural nonprofits should have anything remotely to do with solving society’s ills? Stopping hunger or finding a cure for cancer or AIDS is just not the same as opening new ways of examining and understanding the world around us. It isn’t?
Photo: Apollo Lunar Lander Missions from AcuraZine Dan