In Favor of Genetically Modified Organizations

gmoI prefer my vegetables in their 100% organic state.

I don’t feel the same way about non-profit arts & cultural organizations.

There is nothing sacred about the business model and (dare I say it?) the artistic mission of any arts and cultural organization.

That doesn’t mean that an organization shouldn’t stand for anything. Nor would I argue that it’s healthy for an organization’s business model or artistic mission to fluctuate all willy-nilly.  But let there be no doubt that EVERY facet of how a non-profit arts & cultural organization operates should be open to thoughtful consideration and purposeful re-direction.

Every Spring (for those on July 1 fiscal years) arts & cultural organizations produce budgets that pass forward the “seed” of their business model and artistic mission.  It deserves to be more than an exercise in balancing revenue and expense.

A profound question that staff should be exploring – and Boards should be deliberating – is how satisfied are we (they) that the budget advances a business model and/or artistic mission that meets these criteria:

  • Engaging to a specific population that wants to actively participate and financially support it,
  • Relevant or Important within the context of the community we serve,
  • Sustainable to the point that we can articulate the “flourished” situation in which we’ll find ourselves 5 years (or further) into the future.
  • Innovative because it is the nature of life, art, the universe and everything to move forward. Even for organizations committed to preserving aspects of the past,  there must be an on-going commitment to exploring creative new ways to do so.

We live in wonderful times of opportunity – for those willing to consider every opportunity to advance the way we operate – even to the point of modifying the DNA of our own organizations.

Matt is just half-way through a 22-city national speaking tour with his Audiences Everywhere™ workshop.  Catch an upcoming event in Providence, San Diego, Chicago, Minneapolis and many more:


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