Monday, May 31, 2010

The Evolution of Storytelling

This video summarizes the power and possibility of arts and culture.  Enjoy it, pass it along.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Oxygen for the Organizational Brain

THIS WEEK, NONPROFIT CONSULTANT MARION CONWAY is running a series of articles on her blog about the importance of board retreats.  She's giving you all the best insight on why to do them and how to do them; she's even sharing sample agendas!  So you've got to check that out.
I consider the board retreat oxygen for the organizational brain.  It provides space and time to breathe and think deeply about the organization's health and well-being.  As I've written elsewhere, the coming together of boards, staff and volunteers can be a bonding experience that can move an organization to new levels of achievement.  And taking time to breathe and think deeply can clear away the cobwebs and refocus everyone on the mission and the impact.
Most regular board meetings just can't do that very well.  With their agendas and often rigorous timeframes, getting the chance to even take a breath, much less a deep one, is almost impossible.  You've got to create separate space for deep breathing.
Lots of boards go on hiatus during the summer months.  I think this could be a great time to hold a retreat -- even if it's just for a few hours around the backyard grill.  It's the chance to take the long view, review options, ask the "what if's" and keep the oxygen flowing.
Photo: Oneness Family Board Retreat,...from cliffkayser

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

The New Ventures Think Tank: Why Your Organization Needs One

BRAINSTORMING SESSIONS HAVE A WONDERFUL WAY OF invigorating people.  It's exciting and, yes, liberating to contemplate future accomplishments, even if they're too lofty to achieve.  Cultural organizations are full of creative people with lots of ideas -- big ideas, too -- but few have a structured means of capturing them and funneling them into workable actions.  This is especially true when it comes to developing earned income strategies.  Beyond the typical mix of nonprofit fundraising activities, who's routinely minding the store when it comes to creating opportunities for long-term self-sufficiency beside the director?
I recently met with the executive committee and director of an historic site with a massive physical plant.  Almost three-quarters of current income comes from earned income and much of that is from for-profit activities, such as apartment rentals and lease of space to for-profit business.  Their efforts to come up with ideas for income-generating ventures is an ongoing conversation that could be considered sporadic or unfocused due, in part, to a lack of time and talent to devote to such efforts.  How could that be remedied?
Many for-profit businesses devote big money for research and development in an effort to remain competitive and profitable.  R & D is more often a by-product in the world of cultural nonprofits, the result of an immediate problem in search of a quick, inexpensive solution.  But, what if we could create a think tank that met regularly to brainstorm, research and evaluate self-sufficiency ventures?  Why couldn't a committee made up of various talents come together to do this for your cultural organization? 
You may have heard or read about the importance of a "blue sky committee", a group just focused on the big picture what if's.  I'm dubbing my think tank the "new ventures committee" to not only contemplate the what if's, but to also assess project feasibility and identify venture partners and funders.  It's groups like these that will help keep nonprofits flexible and in tune with the needs and trends of their external environments, as well as make substantive contributions to the bottom line. 
Photo:  All Blue.... happy blue sky!  from Andreza Pinheiro