November 2008 Archives
In my continuing travels around the country to visit symphony orchestras--I have now spent a day or more with 145 different professional orchestras--I learn a lot. I learn what is working and what isn't. I learn that local issues and conditions are critically important in understanding any orchestra's problems, and that while there is no questioning the value of good governance and management practice (not to mention the value of a good artistic product), those practices must be applied with knowledge and understanding of the local dynamics.
"How do I know my orchestra is achieving its potential in fund raising?" I hear this question a lot--from musicians, from board members, from administrative staff. It's a very complicated question, one that is likely to become even more important in these difficult economic times. And it's a question that can become critical when an orchestra is going through a difficult labor negotiation, perhaps asking for musician concessions and making the claim that "we are raising all the money we can raise in this community." At certain times in certain places, that claim may be true, or very close to true. At other times and in other places, it may be unjustified. But how does any observer, even an involved observer inside the organization, know? Fund raising is vague, squishy, hard to get a handle on--harder to judge than earned income, where there are empty seats to tell you what your potential might be in ticket sales.
Last month I wrote about a stimulating, thoughtful meeting that took place in Elgin, Illinois, between the staffs of the Elgin Symphony Orchestra and the Elgin Youth Symphony Orchestra. In that blog I focused on the spirit of the meeting, the intellectual quality of the discussion, and the vital role that Midori, the residency artist, played in making the meeting happen and in propelling the thinking as the meeting progressed.
In last week's blog I shared some thoughts about the current economic turmoil that we are experiencing. And because this appears to be one of the most serious downturns that most of us have experienced, I think it is important enough to continue thinking about this week.