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...]

Stories from the Field: Measuring Impact

Calipers

Over the past three or four years that I’ve worked in the US cultural sector, I’ve noticed that arts organizations are experimenting with the way that we count.  Or, perhaps it is more accurate to say that we are developing more holistic ways of measuring what really counts.  The recent Counting New Beans study challenged theaters to go beyond economic impact or numbers of “butts in seats” to measure the intrinsic value of their work.  Similarly, many organizations are striving to measure intangibles such as attitudinal change or increased … [Read more...]

Stories from the Field: The Loft Literary Center

The Loft

In the last several years, myriad organizations have moved into online education from different sectors. The proliferation of broadband and ubiquity of digital platforms enabling the distribution of high-definition video and related educational tools at low cost have converged to make this an option for organizations of any size. At National Arts Strategies, we first dipped our toes in the digital sea in 2009, presenting two series of online events: Talk with an Expert and Closer Look. I led development and presentation of both series. While a … [Read more...]