Arts administrators worry.
We worry about cash flow. We worry about achieving and sustaining consensus. We worry about attracting and retaining quality staff team. We worry about logistics. We worry about outstanding grant applications and whether last year’s donors will continue their support this year. We worry about deadlines and opening nights. We worry about why ticket sales are underperforming budget expectations. We worry about play-off games that get scheduled concurrent with long-standing major events. We worry about the short term. We worry about the long-term.
It is our nature to worry.
And late at night, when the world is quiet, we also lie awake and worry about RELEVANCE.
The words vary, but the core of the question is: “Who cares about the kind of work we do?” Sometimes we ask “who will care” or “who used to care” which reveals that the nature of our worries are NOW (say, when reviewing a disappointing ticket sales report) or SOON (as in considering next season’s offerings) or LATER (posed while updating a strategic plan.)
In a brand new workshop called Opportunity Everywhere™ – recently presented in Seattle and Washington, DC – and coming soon to Denver, Boston, San Francisco and Fort Lauderdale, arts & cultural organization leaders have been tackling that worry – taking time to parse it into its elemental components and address it as functions of the challenge of “audience development.
I’m delighted to share this self-test – and invite comments & questions at MLehrman@audienceavenue.com.
How Relevant is My Arts Organization?
Score each of the following questions on a scale of 1 (not at all satisfied) to 5 (highly satisfied).
HOW SATISFIED ARE YOU THAT…
- The aim of our MISSION STATEMENT is important. _____
- Even if you can’t quote or don’t love the specific words of your organization’s mission statement, answer this question based on your understanding of the intention it expresses.
- Our ARTISTIC CHOICES fulfill our mission. _____
- For clarity, focus on the artistic decisions made within your organization within the last 24 months.
- We possess the CAPACITY to pursue our mission. _____
- How satisfied are you with the financial, human, physical and intellectual resources available to you to pursue your mission?
- We understand & agree on what drives RELEVANCE from the perspective of the people who attend and support our activities. _____
- When it comes to making decisions within your organization – how thorough and explicit are any discussions of the implications of those decisions on your audiences, visitors, customers, donors and stakeholders?
- We own the full journey of the AUDIENCE EXPERIENCE. _____
- To what extent has anyone within your organization charted and taken steps to direct the specific route by which attendees discover, decide, attend and evaluate their experience with you?
- We satisfy the growing imperative of CONNECTIVITY. _____
- How present is your organization in the world of social media? How vigorously does your organization embrace opportunities for social media connection to the events you produce and present?
- Our company is well-embraced by a “VILLAGE”. _____
- Just as “it takes a village to raise a child,” how well supported do you, personally, feel by your organization’s Board, donors and stakeholders? Whatever your role or level, if you feel lonely, or if that support feels distant, that’s a legitimate cause for dissatisfaction.
- Beyond survival, there’s a real CAUSE to our efforts. _____
- It’s not uncommon to spend one’s days solving immediate challenges and crises. So, take a deep breath. This question asks you to consider how much of your stress is relieved by recognizing the greater cause behind what your organization is working to accomplish.
- We excel at making people feel CONNECTED. _____
- Every non-profit arts & cultural organization has a “mission” at its core. This questions asks you to evaluate how effectively your organization connects that mission to audiences, volunteers, donors, members, visitors, stakeholders, vendors, staff members and others with whom it comes in contact. The imperative is to not merely “perform for” or “exhibit to” an audience, but to engage them in an on-going relationship.
TOTAL SCORE __________
Maximum = 45
- 40+ – ROBUST – You appear to be on solid ground! Be sure to share this self-test among others of your Staff and Board to confirm consensus. Keep up the great work!
- 35-39 – PROMISING – Your results likely reveal a general weakness or a very specific weakness. Either way, rest assured that you’re in a fairly strong situation where you can take proactive steps to improve your ratings.
- 30-34 – CHALLENGED – Relevance can be a fragile and fast-changing virtue. Consider this evaluation as a “wake up call.” It doesn’t mean that nobody loves you or that you’re locked in a downward spiral. It does mean that it’s time for your staff and Board leadership to focus on being mindful & purposeful on ALL the ways it can work to pursue relevance. As the saying goes, “It’s not how many times you get knocked down that matters. It’s how many times you get back up.”
- below 30 – CONCERNED – Don’t fret! This self-test also serves as a “flotation device” – and can be used to create a specific action plan for your organization. Consider sharing this self-test among others of your Staff and Board to identify areas of shared concern and priority. It’s not too late start asking profound questions or to consider making meaningful changes, but you should proceed with a sense of urgency.
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