on the record: June 2009 Archives
I wish I could fully explain why I find myself so captivated by the São Paulo Symphony Orchestra. Whatever the reason, it remains one of the most endearing (and little known) stories in the world of symphony orchestras.
One aspect of nonprofit governance that frustrates some people (it drives some corporate types batty, in fact) is that it's messy and inefficient. I've noted that before, but it keeps being driven home to me as I visit orchestras around the country. When I am asked to facilitate a board retreat, very often one of the central issues that boards have trouble with is balancing efficiency with involvement.
Often when I meet with orchestra boards of directors, I am asked about the value of strategic planning, and about how an orchestra should go about it. On some occasions, I am shown a strategic plan, and often it is a horrifying document. I do believe in the value for orchestras of strategic planning, but it must be true strategic planning. Many aspects of planning are neither black nor white--there are many shades of gray, and much value in a range of opinions and views. I thought I would assemble some thoughts of my own on the subject.
You might think that this only happens in bad fiction, but in the past year alone I have encountered it in real life a handful of times. A small or mid-sized orchestra is in a music director search, and someone, either a board member or a major donor, makes one of the following offers: