Your Museum as an Essential Community Space

Staff Picks

NAS produces publications, videos and other management tools to inspire those working in the field to take a fresh look at their work and the challenges they face. Over the last few years we have amassed quite a large catalog of content. We’ve sent NAS staff members into the archives to pick their favorites and share them here. This week NAS’ Program and Accounting Coordinator, Pearl Bickersteth, shares one of her favorite NAS videos. Museums are often thought of as places for quiet, introspective, cultural learning experiences. Nina Simon, … [Read more...]

The Earthquake is Coming. How Do We Withstand it?

A soldier watches as a fiddler plays a tune in the ruins of Baalbek, Lebanon. A somewhat perfect juxtaposition and incredibly beautiful reminder. (C) Taylor Craig

Crisis is everywhere. We are surrounded by it. It’s in the news headlines, in the text we just got from a family member and even in the daily operations of our organizations. Crisis can be both internal and external, personal and public. Personally, it feels as if we are surrounded yet distant from this word and its meaning. When it is not taking place in our backyard, we often don’t think or feel the effects of a crisis so intensely. The ways in which we react to crisis situations are shaped by our identity. I believe organizations have … [Read more...]

Do you need the matrix?

The Audit Committee will see you now.

What is a board matrix? A board matrix (composition grid, etc.) for the governing board of a nonprofit organization is a tool that methodically attempts to first inventory the needs of an organization at board level, then the alignment between these needs and both current and potential board members. These needs can include skills & competencies, intrinsic qualities (race/ethnicity, gender, age, residence, sexual orientation), resources, networks or anything the organization values. Matrices range wildly in complexity, from simple to … [Read more...]

The Courage to Fail

Photo by Chris Potter via Flickr

Several years ago, while trying to broaden my culinary skill, I had a dear friend over to dinner and I tried a new recipe. I was attempting to make crepes with a small, stainless-steel pan. I’m pretty sure I missed an ingredient in the recipe, the pan was significantly too small to make the delicate, thin crepe, it stuck to the pan and cooked a little too long to make the perfect texture. The crepes ended up rubbery, thick and completely disgusting! My friend, who was a gracious guest, offered that we could grab a bite out instead and call it a … [Read more...]

Skunk Works: A Place for Innovation

What happens when you try to create something new in your organization? You might be lucky enough to be able to go off in a corner and sprint through the design work without any disturbances. But more likely, you are encumbered by some pesky obstacles otherwise known as policies and procedures. You work tirelessly, are just inches from a reaching a Eureka! moment, only to have one of the following happen: You get thrown out of the conference room because you didn’t sign up for the time slot You get dragged into staff meeting You need … [Read more...]

Evaluating to Increase Impact

Photo by Jori Ketten

Evaluation appeals to my intense curiosity to figure out how and why things work and don’t work. Many high performing organizations that I have come to know generally use a combination of formal and informal evaluation to build learning loops towards increasing strategic success. That is, they hire experts to increase internal knowledge and staff capabilities and to work with them on particularly complex inquiries, where it is critical to understand the elements on which a program will fail or succeed. And, they look to their staffs to … [Read more...]

Placemaking: Leverage, Alignment and Moving Mountains

Irrigate!

Leverage. “Give me a place to stand and I shall move mountains with it.” This was Archimedes’ take on it back in the 3rd century B.C. Given that arts and culture organizations are in the business of moving mountains, leverage and a place to stand (alignment) are the keys to their success. In physics a lever amplifies an input force to provide a greater output force. That lever pivots on a fulcrum and where you place that fulcrum makes all the difference. As does finding the right lever, ideally one that produces no friction. To think … [Read more...]

An Unlikely Partnership: Reinventing Swan Lake

photo: Cecil Sanders

Developing audiences, deepening engagement and expanding creative horizons are some of the biggest concerns of the leaders we work with at National Arts Strategies. With increasing entertainment options and access to technology, organizations feel the need to make their work more innovative and appealing to modern consumers, but many struggle in figuring out how to do so. For some, exploring new forms of collaboration can be the answer to remaining relevant and competitive in today’s environment. Earlier this year, Ballet Memphis Founding … [Read more...]

Tell me about a time…

WeWantYou

Hearing about how our colleagues in the field address challenges can be extremely motivating and energizing. But sometimes, it’s hard to see how the steps one organization took can be translated to our own work. There’s no carbon copy solution to the issues facing the field but we can certainly benefit from understanding others’ experiences. What’s important is to find the key lessons that emerge from an experience rather than focus on the how-to of a particular example. At NAS, we love digging into stories from the field to find these learning … [Read more...]

Partnerships: From Good to Great

capp header

One of the most important responsibilities for any nonprofit is to understand how you can best leverage organizational assets to serve your mission and your constituents. But often, our assets alone aren’t plentiful enough to let us deliver on our mission with the level of impact we’d like. Partnerships are one way to do more without the requirement of additional internal resources, but it’s important to enter into a partnership for the right reasons. Regardless of shared vision or a great rapport, making the most out of collaborations requires … [Read more...]