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The Cycle Planning for Success in the Arts


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The Cycle Planning for Success in the Arts
By Michael M. Kaiser
and Brett Egan

Published in: Technology, Business
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The Cycle Planning for Success in the Arts

  1. 1. THE CyCLE PLANNINg FOR SUCCESS IN THE ARTS By Michael M. Kaiser and Brett Egan
  2. 2. CONTENTSIntroduction: What Is The Cycle? 4Artistic Planning 5Programmatic and Institutional Marketing 8Building and Engaging the Family 12Incremental Fundraising 14Controlling Cost, Reinvesting, Building Capacity 16Conclusion 18 CONTENTS | 3
  3. 3. INTRODUCTION: WHAT IS THE CyCLE? Time and again, we find this pattern at work in But this cycle is more than a theory of how to successful, healthy arts organizations: build and maintain health. It is also a practical • Their programming is bold, mission-driven, management tool that defines relationships among and balanced; artistic, executive, and board leadership. Each party • They market that programming, and the has specific responsibilities in a functioning cycle; institution behind it, aggressively; each depends on the others to succeed. • The resulting visibility produces a swell of interest and enthusiasm among a “family” At the heart of this theory is a total dedication The CyCle of ticket-buyers, students, board members, to long-term planning. Without sufficient time to donors, funders, and volunteers; fund and market bold, transformative art, our artA theory of organizational • They make it easy and enjoyable for that family will suffer, our audiences and donors will stagnate, activity that prioritizes to get more involved—to contribute money, and our seasons will—at best—plateau in scale investment in great time, or connections; and and ambition. art: when bold art is • They reinvest revenue produced by that marketed aggressively, family in even more bold programming that, The remainder of this booklet discusses each marketed well, entices an ever-larger, more aspect of this cycle—planning great art (or an organization attracts diverse, generous, and connected family. “programming”), marketing, building a family, a family of energized fundraising, reinvestment—and common pitfallsticket-buyers and patrons. When this cycle repeats year after year, all in each area. The income produced by parties—staff, board, and family—sense they arethis family is reinvested in part of a winning enterprise and, committed to In the end, this cycle presents a logical framework more art that, marketed the organization’s continued success, grow more for how to build strong, sustainable enterprises well, builds a larger, even generous and productive. These organizations one step at a time. more diverse family. grow incrementally, donor by donor, and slowly When this cycle repeats build and maintain artistic and financial health. year after year, the ThE CyClEorganization incrementally In our work at the DeVos Institute of Arts and sustainably builds Management at the Kennedy Center, we see capacity, presence and this cycle in successful organizations of all sizes, great Art health. urban and rural, in the United States and abroad. We see it not only in performing and presenting organizations, but also in museums, arts schools, Aggressive service organizations, historical societies, public $ Marketing libraries, university programs—even advocacy organizations, botanical gardens, and zoos. In fact, any not-for-profit organization that must Family fundraise to support its work can benefit from these principles.4 | INTRODUCTION: WHAT IS THE CyCLE?
  4. 4. ARTISTIC PLANNINgAn organization’s health—indeed, its survival— more sophisticated offering for new and largerrelies on the quality, imagination, and audiences, growing companies will, at best,distinctiveness of its programming. If we fail plateau and hold on; at worst, after severalto produce superior programs, educational interchangeable seasons, their donors will loseopportunities, and productions, we cannot interest and begin to spend their time andsay that we are successful or that we deserve money It is likely that, before long, our donorsand ticket-buyers will come to agree. Long-term artistic planning is the simple process of putting dreams down on paper. Because itWhat conditions are required to create truly envisions work taking place years in advance, ittransformational programs that stretch our does not necessarily depend on the current sizecapacity to its hilt? What must we have in of our budget, staff, or board. It does not needplace to produce—at the quality and scale we to happen during business hours or on a specialdesire—that citywide festival, risky commission, retreat. It does not require fancy technology. Allvisionary service, or landmark exhibition that this process requires is a sheet of paper, a pencil TrAnsformATionAlforces audiences to pay attention, excites current (with an eraser), time, and imagination. ProgrAmmingsupporters, and attracts new ones? We believe that: Bold, exciting, surprising,First, and fundamentally, transformative • Planning increases our chances of securingprogramming requires careful, long-term the funding required for the “big idea.” “big idea” programming:planning. The most exciting, adventuresome Meeting a fundraising target that exceeds an organization’s primaryprojects—which often rely on new funders, current capacity takes time. It is scary enough means to energize andcollaborators, and outreach to build support to program daring work. It is crippling to do galvanize audiencesand demand—are simply too expensive and too so without sufficient time to fundraise for it. and donors. Plannedcomplicated to rush. Without sufficient planning, our seasons and sufficiently in advance, our art stay roughly the same size year after it forms the basis forFor this reason, we recommend planning major year. aggressive marketing,programs three to five years in advance. • Planning ahead also strengthens the successful fundraising,For some, especially smaller organizations, this donor relationship; it is far more practical and incremental growth inprocess may seem daunting, unnecessary, or and enticing to offer a “menu” of potential institutional capacity.even impossible. But, for us, it is fundamental investments taking place over the course ofto building sustainable organizations. This is several years than to try to shoehorn eachespecially true for growing companies that donor into the next, most urgent project.want to significantly increase the scale of their • The large, experimental project requiresofferings. Without the time to create, fundraise, marketing and educational efforts to identify,and market increasingly ambitious art, their engage, and solicit current and new audiences;seasons will stay roughly the same size, quality, these efforts take time to conceive, budget,and character season after season. Without and implement.additional manpower and resources to build a ARTISTIC PLANNINg | 5
  5. 5. ARTISTIC PLANNINg EXAMPlE ARTISTIC PlAN FOR A REGIONAl ThEATER year/Season 1 year/Season 2 year/Season 3 year/Season 4 year/Season 5 Program/Date New production of New production of New production of New production of New production of play “A” play “B” play “C” with video play “D” with live play “E” with live design by “X” artist music composed music performed by by “X” “X” and dance by “y” Program/Date Annual production Annual production Annual production Annual production New annual or Series or Series with guest artist “A” with guest artist “B” production to in exciting space “X” celebrate our “X” anniversary Program/Date Collaboration with Festival featuring Collaboration with Co-commission Festival in institution “A” multiple works by institution “A” to of dream collaboration with playwright “A” produce a new playwright with “X” “X,” “y,” and “Z” production of “X” international festival institutions on our theme of “A” to celebrate our anniversary Program/Date Work-in- Commission of Work-in-progress New plays from “X” Anniversary progress series in emerging playwright series staged by country festival in retrospective of collaboration with “X” director “X” partnership with the 10 plays we’ve “X” radio station regional community premiered over from “X” last “X” years Program/Date In-school work in Expand in-school Master class series Virtual learning hub Festival of young “X” number of work to “X” featuring “X,” “y,” added to Web site playwrights to school districts area of town in and “Z” celebrity to provide access to celebrate “X” years partnership with “y” artists working with our repertoire and of our work in the organization our schoolchildren those of “X” and “y” community collaborators This sample template is just one of any number of ways to organize a five-year plan. (There is nothing sacred about this system, but it is simple and effective.) In each “Year/Season” column, we write down program names (when we have them), as well as ideas for key collaborations, educational programming, festivals, commissions, artists, etc. As the seasons progress, so do the complexity and scale of our offerings. This sample includes examples in every slot, but an effective five-year plan need only indicate major programming as far out as possible. • Planning enhances impact and visibility. With stakeholders must budget time to build time, we can organize auxiliary efforts such as necessary alliances and research. The most master classes, lectures, and special events, sought-after playwrights, composers, and and develop the alliances often necessary to choreographers can require years to respond produce larger projects by leveraging shared to a commission. Without sufficient planning, resources, visibility, and audiences. we simply forfeit access to the best art. • In some arts industries, such as opera and • While artists are remarkably efficient, the orchestral music, one must contract the best creative process is rarely neat. Advance talent years in advance; the stars get booked planning provides time to develop, up early. Service and advocacy organizations challenge, edit, and restart—the “messiness” that rely on collaboration among multiple required to create great art.6 | ARTISTIC PLANNINg
  6. 6. An effective, long-term artistic plan does not In doing so, they maximize their chancesneed to list every program in every year. It of producing highly competitive, diverse,should, however, define major programming transformative seasons year after year. The“spikes”: exciting, bold, transformational ability to surprise and energize audiences on awork that requires additional fundraising and regular basis becomes all the more importantmarketing capacity to support. Other, smaller as our industries proliferate with talented peersprograms can fall in later. and cheap, electronic alternatives. While virtual performances cannot offer the same experienceThis plan can—and will—change. For presenters, as a live event, for many—particularly younger—a last-minute, must-have opportunity can replace audiences, they are “close enough” substitutesan any-season program. (Funds raised for an for our work. CAPACiTyaborted project can often—with proper care—bediverted to another.) Experimental producers At the same time, this competitive diversityand artists who create their best work in the has made it much more difficult to achieve and An organization’s abilitymoment can nonetheless plan key partnerships, maintain visibility. We have to fight harder, and to fulfill its mission yearengagements, tours, educational work, and offer more, to maintain interest. Couple this with after year, as measured byanniversary celebrations well in advance. reduced funding from fewer institutional sources its manpower; the know-All that is required for effective planning is and more places for individuals to spend less how, or skill, possesseda sensible combination of forethought and discretionary income, and the organization that by that manpower;entrepreneurialism. fails to surprise and excite its audiences on a the quality of strategy regular basis will fade from the radar. Its family, developed to integrateBut this kind of planning cannot be rushed. Too and its resources, will dwindle. And it will be left and leverage that skill;often, we are so consumed by delivering this with even less to reinvest in the next year. the resource producedyear’s (hastily planned) programs that we fail to as a result; and theplan for the next. In desperation, we resort to This is why, particularly during recessionary sustainability of thesemimicking what has worked for others or what periods (when competition intensifies), daring, elements. An organizationhas worked before to simply fill a “slot” (the “big idea” programs are so critical. They with adequate capacityholiday show, the family attraction, etc.). In doing operate like a mental “reset” button, forcing marshals each element toso, we abdicate our role as cultural leaders and our audiences to pay attention (again), keepingresign ourselves to following the taste of our our work top-of-mind amidst a crowded field. fulfill its mission year afteraudiences and peers. (Importantly, big idea programs do not need to year. An organization with be big budget programs. But they do have to be insufficient capacity lacksThe best programmers—even those who appear vibrant, exceptional, and surprising.) the manpower, know-how,to design extraordinary seasons, year after year, strategy, resource, orwithout much effort—are working every day to It is easy to claim that long-term planning is sustainability to fulfill itsidentify and secure the most exciting artists, impossible for capacity-strapped organizations. mission year after year.premieres, and collaborations. They are dreaming It is equally easy to say that it must be done. Butyears in advance; securing a pipeline of the most one fact is clear: planning offers the highest oddsattractive talent; enticing donors and staff with that a major project will happen, will happenvisions of the future; modifying when necessary; well, and that it will produce the excitement,and developing auxiliary content to extend the enthusiasm, and resources required to repeatimpact and visibility of their most important that success year after year.projects. ARTISTIC PLANNINg | 7
  7. 7. PROgRAMMATIC AND INSTITUTIONAL MARKETINg To produce increasingly adventurous and This practice requires that we thoroughly meaningful art that asks our audiences to follow research each program to determine whether us—especially along that transformational, less its potential buyers are among our existing, familiar path—we must be prepared to compete core audience or whether “marginal” or new aggressively for their attention and loyalty. prospects will need to be targeted as part of a special campaign. This is the role of marketing, which we approach from two directions. Certain programs that feature recognizable, popular repertory or stars—The Nutcracker, Picasso, an annual conference, etc.—do not PROGRAMMATIC require expensive, expansive campaigns. MARKETING These programs require what we think of as informational marketing efforts: a program First, programmatic marketing consists of name, location, photo, date, and phone number ProgrAmmATiC the tools and strategies we use to build an should be sufficient to incite a sale. mArkeTing audience for our work, to sell tickets, educational programs, lectures, exhibitions, etc. It uses both The more daunting, transformational project— The tactics used to traditional means—print, radio, and television with which our audiences have less familiarity identify and target media; direct mail; telemarketing; community and comfort—requires what we think of as partnerships; special incentives; discounts; a missionary marketing effort. An unknown potential audiences for networks—and electronic, viral, social, and international attraction, a world premiere, each attraction, create mobile media. These are our ads, e-blasts, an experimental artist, a new service: these awareness and demand, brochures, radio spots, social media, online programs require that we make a special effort and drive a sale (of efforts, etc. to convey to potential buyers what is unique tickets, classes, services, and valuable about the proposed experience. or other experiences). This type of marketing requires that we plan Effective programmatic marketing develops a effective programmatic long-term, multipoint relationship with the buyer. and budget for additional research, outreach, marketing extends It asks us to identify target audiences and tailor a and community engagement in order to build beyond the transaction strong message; promote that message through an appropriate earned revenue base for the to contextualize each appropriate channels to create demand; price attraction. offering, ensure a high services competitively; drive demand to pointquality of experience, and of sale; contextualize and educate around the Understanding where along this spectrum each lay the groundwork for service; ensure quality of the experience itself; attraction sits is central to developing efficient a long-term relationship and lay the framework for future loyalty. programmatic marketing campaigns. with the buyer.8 | PROgRAMMATIC AND INSTITUTIONAL MARKETINg
  8. 8. INSTITuTIONAl MARKETING What does institutional marketing look like in practice?The second, less familiar approach to producing • Bold, surprising, transformational programmingvisibility for our work is what we refer to as is in itself our primary, and best, form ofinstitutional marketing. Rather than sell a institutional marketing. Major festivals,specific show or program, these efforts build innovative programs, provocative collaborations,awareness and enthusiasm for what and who and unique or high-profile artistic talent allwe are as an institution. They focus on creating “spike” excitement and enthusiasm—theso much excitement and magnetism around our hallmark of successful institutional marketing. insTiTuTionAlwork that ticket-buyers and donors actively want Of course, successful programs also sell tickets. mArkeTingto be part of what we are—irrespective of their But importantly, they produce a sense of ourattraction to any single program or offering. organizations as alluring, exciting, unique, and The creative use of impossible to ignore. organizational assetsThis effort recognizes that audiences and donors • Creative, well-produced announcements of to create spikes inhave limitless options as to where to spend their future work—even two or three years ahead awareness, energy, andleisure time and money and competes to keep of time—suggest a vital, robust, energized enthusiasm around anone’s institution and its offerings top-of-mind in organization. (This is particularly important for organizations in a turnaround.) A live season organization, beginningthis crowded marketplace. Simply put, this effort announcement attended by donors, staff, with the presentation ofaims to make the people and institution behind press, and partners builds excitement and a transformational art itselfone’s art more “famous” and irresistible. sense of belonging. The public celebration and continuing throughInstitutional marketing uses all institutional of a new strategic plan, rendering of a future activities that heightenassets—whether physical (buildings, costumes, home, or collaborative partnership can be awareness about thecollections, etc.), human (internal or external), or equally effective. people, process, andexperiential (artistic process, dinner at a special • Ensuring that press—a favorable preview, other institutional assetshome, backstage tour, etc.)—to soften potential review, or other mention—reaches key behind that art.“buyers” (audiences, members, donors, board decision-makers and likely buyers is essentialmembers, collaborators, presenters or exhibitors, institutional marketing. We are often elatedvolunteers, even staff) to the extent that they are (or traumatized) by reviews that no one elselikely to buy or support our work without a “hard sees. (Or if they do, they forget about themsell.” immediately; we often assume we are much more famous than we actually are.) great pressLike programmatic marketing, this takes time, suggests a vital organization—but only if one’srigor, and dedicated capacity. But because it buyers actually read it.relies on the imaginative utilization of existing • Auxiliary activities that celebrate the individualsassets, big ideas, or the creative characterization or process behind our programs, and extend theof work we plan to do anyway, it should be impact and visibility of our art, can be equallyinexpensive or even “free” to execute. It is effective. Master classes with celebrity guestsimportant to remember that, because excitement (everyone can reach someone more famousand awareness are critical to successful than they are); special events to welcome afundraising, an investment in institutional new artistic director; lectures, backstage tours,marketing is a direct investment in our effort to competitions, exhibitions, open rehearsals, onlineraise money. exposés; open houses, neighborhood strolls, or exhibitions featuring new members of a service organization—all are relatively inexpensive, effective institutional marketing tactics. PROgRAMMATIC AND INSTITUTIONAL MARKETINg | 9
  9. 9. PROgRAMMATIC AND INSTITUTIONAL MARKETINg • leadership ideas that galvanize the activity of inaugurations, the Olympics, an environmental multiple collaborators are especially effective or humanitarian concern, etc. at building visibility, while limiting investment of time or other resources. For instance, the Like all forms of marketing, institutional company that organizes others to program on marketing is only effective if repeated again and its theme (e.g. a citywide festival celebrating again. For this reason, we find that the most the art of a specific country, era, or anniversary) successful organizations build a calendar of creates an army of activity that points back to regular activity—integrated with their program the leadership of the organization behind the calendars—to organize these efforts. idea. This type of institutional marketing makes us appear much larger than we actually are. Like artistic planning, all that is required for this • All of the above have increased impact and process is imagination, a piece of paper, a pencil, traction when timed with an historical moment, and time. The executive director (who is the chief global cultural event, or social movement that architect of this campaign) must toil as rigorously has captured the greater public imagination, on this plan as the artistic director does on his e.g. anniversaries of artists or nations, or hers. EXAMPlE INSTITuTIONAl MARKETING PlAN Institutional Marketing Initiative September New production and special event/gala; press push; circulate resulting coverage to game changers October Online competition for walk-on role in upcoming production November Citywide festival based on our programming (“leadership idea”) December Free performance in a collaborator’s space for their donors, audience, and family January Announce a new commission with the artist present; game changer event afterwards February Premiere of provocative collaboration; press push; circulate resulting coverage to game changers March Live announcement of upcoming season (as a group with other organizations?) April Hold a party to release the new strategic plan; send a copy to all game changers and funders May Launch a master class series featuring master artists in conversation with students June Open an exhibition at a neighboring cultural center or museum July Everyone’s at the beach, no one is reading the paper…take a break! August Really…take a break! No one cares what happens in August! Plan for next year! Smaller organizations should aim for approximately four institutional marketing initiatives each year. Mid-size and large organizations should aim for approximately one institutional marketing initiative each month.10 | PROgRAMMATIC AND INSTITUTIONAL MARKETINg
  10. 10. In order to create sufficient visibility, large dramatically expand the pool of potential ticket-organizations need at least one major buyers and donors. But, more importantly forinstitutional marketing advance each month. For fundraising purposes, their energized families aresmaller organizations, three or four spikes per likely to become more generous and willing toyear will make a meaningful difference. compel their friends into action.There are two audiences for this effort. The first There are multiple other benefits of an effectiveis the general public—potential ticket-buyers, institutional marketing campaign:students, visitors, etc. A successful general • It should lessen programmatic marketingcampaign results in increased earned income expense—especially in the case of missionaryby inciting a large volume of small transactions campaigns. If audiences are inclined to follow(ticket purchases or other paid transactions). us because they believe in what we are, institutionally, it is more likely they will buy aThe second audience for this campaign is our subscription for an entire season or attendcurrent and potential family members—particularly a risky premiere—prior to reviews or word gAme ChAngersour major donors, program officers, board of mouth—because they trust our brand ofmembers, and primary partners. Because these artistic leadership. This baseline of support A relatively small grouprelationships are central to our fundraising effort, should embolden our artistic decision-making. of people—key funders,managers must make a special effort to ensure that • It can bring an ailing board back to life. board members, high-institutional marketing reaches this core group. Underproductive boards are usually also value individuals, civic underwhelmed, or even embarrassed, by the officials, artistic orEspecially in capacity-strapped organizations, art or financial situation of the organization. Amanagers must be focused about where, bad review or balance sheet has given them institutional collaborators,between these two audiences, they focus. In pause; they have grown hesitant to involve presenters, distributors,most smaller organizations, managers do not their friends in a lackluster, financially insecure members of the press—have the time or resource to direct an institutional effort. An effective institutional marketing who have the abilitymarketing campaign at a vast, unknown audience campaign can reset this mentality, as we renew to change the futurein hope that these efforts will lead to a mass of these game changers’ energy and enthusiasm of an organizationunsolicited, spontaneous donations. In fact, most in an organization they feel is moving in the and require special,organizations only need to target 100 to 300 (and right direction. ongoing cultivation andthere is no magic to this number) key individuals • Institutional marketing saves time. For the stewardship. The additionwho, with the stroke of a pen or a single decision, capacity-strapped executive director of a small or loss of these individualscan change its future. It is critical that each of organization (with little or no marketing staff), from the institutionalthese “game changers” is privy to as many of a successful visibility campaign can motivate family has a significant,these spikes as possible. multiple game changers at once. For the busy bottom-line impact. trustee, a focused institutional marketingFor this reason, institutional marketing is even campaign provides the basis of pride, visibility,more important for small or rural organizations and public confidence necessary to swiftly andthan for their larger, more accessible counterparts. successfully engage others.They have less capacity for programmaticmarketing and need to create more visibility But, most importantly, audiences and donors thatwith less resources. An aggressive institutional are excited by who we are, fundamentally, willmarketing campaign can propel even a small, be much more inclined to contribute generously.out-of-the-way organization to the forefront of In this way, effective institutional marketingthe local, regional, or national consciousness and becomes the cornerstone of fundraising success. PROgRAMMATIC AND INSTITUTIONAL MARKETINg | 11
  11. 11. BUILDINg AND ENgAgINg THE FAMILy If programming is bold and marketing contribute, but that any community offers them aggressive, the number of people who want to myriad organizations in which to perform this support the cycle-driven organization—through generous role. Therefore, they compete hard for patronage, time, and contributions—grows the loyalty and attention of these precious family organically. members. If our meetings—one environment under our control—are droll and procedural, we This family’s purchasing power provides a healthy put ourselves at an unnecessary disadvantage. A base of earned income; its generosity anchors brief performance, special guest, or discussion and strengthens the fundraising effort. Managed of a new artistic venture goes a long way toward with care, this family grows one by one, week reminding them why they sacrifice time and by week, month by month, season by season— resource on our behalf. incrementally increasing revenue and capacity over time. Board members’ primary reward is a feeling of importance to the success of an organization For this reason, “family” is more than a polite they revere. Too often, capacity-strapped pseudonym for “donor” or “buyer.” It is a managers come to regard “The Board” as an strategy for incremental, sustainable growth. homogenous whole with uniform interests and assets. In reality, each individual has their own Well-informed families are an indispensable motivation for involvement; each seeks a unique marketing tool. Managers who understand blend of experiences from their exchange with the power of an educated family develop a the organization. The manager who understands “patter”—a rotating menu of future projects, this works hard to connect each member with a initiatives, and events—to excite and focus specific, mission-driven project that reflects their these critical players. (Artistic and institutional interests and priorities. (This demands a multiyear marketing plans populate this campaign.) portfolio of projects, both artistic and institutional, This rolling “talking points memo” turns seeking support.) family members into enthusiastic, effective ambassadors. Excitement refined by patter is These managers then work to provide each indispensable “social media.” member with a real stake in their project’s success. The member is given reasonable jurisdiction in The heart of a generous family—and a non-artistic matters; they report on project status manager’s most important fundraising tool—is at each meeting; they are supported in their effort a joyous, engaged, and excited board. For to engage their friends and associates; and, at this reason, family-centered managers ensure completion, they are publicly aligned with the that serving on their boards is productive and project’s success. This produces a vital sense of fun. They recognize that trustees are not only belonging, ownership, and pride in the life of the uncompensated volunteers who are expected to organization. This is the definition of engagement.12 | BUILDINg AND ENgAgINg THE FAMILy
  12. 12. On the contrary, discouraged board members— Lastly, successful managers do not overlookdepressed by moribund meetings, a lackluster the role that subscribers, members, and ticket-production, a scary ledger, rushed campaigns, or buyers play in an evolving, diversified family.unresponsive staff—find no shortage of reasons Well-marketed, exciting art increases the pool ofto disengage. The best counter to a dispirited, energized participants at performances, events,unproductive board is a renewed commitment and auxiliary activities. In the short-term, thisto planning and a robust institutional marketing participation provides important earned income.campaign. This union will go a long way toward goodwill produced by a positive experienceresetting perspective and laying the groundwork forms the basis of future, more generousfor reengagement. relationships. The efficient manager sees in fAmily each ticket-buyer a potential subscriber; in eachFamily-centered managers understand that subscriber, a potential member; in each member, An energized, enthusiasticmultifaceted, multitalented members often a future donor. group of ticket-buyers,have more than one gift to give. Unproductive members, donors,members are sometimes bored members; Effective managers make a special effort to trustees and volunteersafter years of being asked to perform only one excite these valuable family members with that anchors anrole—plan galas, review contracts, or authorize institutional marketing; incentivize increasedbudgets—they have simply tired of their involvement (as volunteers or contributors); organization’s financialrelationship with the organization. By engaging encourage them to get their friends involved; health through itsanother of their interests—to help bridge a new present ample opportunities for them to self- commitment of time,institutional alliance, evaluate a program, or identify at higher levels of engagement; and talent, connections, andparticipate on a strategic planning committee, for make giving easy. (It is bewildering how truly financial resources.instance—the effective manager opens another difficult it is to get involved and stay involveddoor into the life of the organization. Asking with certain organizations.)board members to flex a different muscle toadvance the organization furthers the chances of An informed, joyous, rewarded family is likely toreengagement. be productive, ambassadorial, and generous. Managers who perfect the business of creatingEffective managers take equal care to market and promoting joy among this group ofa sense of belonging and importance among supporters are rewarded as the capital—humanvolunteers. A corps of energized, trained volunteers and financial—around their mission continues tocan make the difference between a project swell. In cycle-driven organizations, joy itself is athat breaks even and one that does not; proud, strategy.equipped volunteers can ensure a positive patronexperience in areas that staff capacity cannot reach.This is especially the case today, as more and moreinstitutions engage unpaid volunteers (or interns) tofill roles previously performed by staff. BUILDINg AND ENgAgINg THE FAMILy | 13
  13. 13. INCREMENTAL FUNDRAISINg Effective fundraising simply pairs each family which they feel energized and excited and work member with a logical, financial action in support hard to maintain that environment. of the organization’s mission. Effective fundraisers make it easy for donors to Sustainable organizations dedicate themselves participate at a level that feels right and craft to building families incrementally—one at a time, benefits—both tangible and intangible—at volunteer by volunteer, donor by donor, trustee tiered levels to recognize escalating stages of by trustee—in sync with their programmatic giving. Their benefits are inexpensive and easy to ambition. They plan large, daunting projects well produce. (For instance, one attractive benefit that in advance; they identify and cultivate new family costs nothing to offer is the privilege to purchase members to support the expanded vision along tickets to popular attractions in advance.) a feasible, if ambitious, time frame. This type of Managers who promise expensive, labor-intensive incremental growth limits the risk and fear that perks they cannot deliver will find that donors result when scale outstrips capacity. This type of accustomed to greater levels of customer service growth is the definition of sustainability. will disappear from their rosters. Armed with long-term artistic plans, efficient Effective fundraisers also recognize that fundraisers engage each prospect in open donor interests vary. They use programmatic dialogue about which projects interest her or and institutional marketing assets to build him the most. Rather than make an urgent plea opportunities that appeal to multiple donor for support of the next, most needy program, mentalities: they come to each potential donor prepared to • Our favorite donors identify with our mission, listen, not coerce. The manager with a “menu” programs, and art and want to see us of options for investment maximizes the chance succeed, simply because they believe in what of finding the right, even logical, opportunity we do. These donors seek opportunities for each donor and, once that interest has been to engage with the process and people identified, simply asks: “How can we get you behind our programs: our artistic directors, involved in this program?” curators, artists, students, and collaborators; our rehearsals, master classes, season On the other hand, fundraising by brute force— announcements, readings, creative meetings, where rushed managers and trustees pressure and performances. friends to support an underfunded program in • Others seek access, through us, to otherwise which the prospect has little interest—is rarely unattainable people, experiences, places, or productive or sustainable. (Nor is it much fun.) objects. Effective managers constantly replenish an inventory of assets to which donors can gain Managers who understand the power of cyclical, access through support of their organizations. incremental fundraising leverage the power of These include their board members, power institutional marketing and time their “ask” to brokers, experts, or celebrities; special coincide with peaks in enthusiasm created by collections, archives, or performance ephemera; great art and exciting auxiliary programming. unique spaces (theirs or others), board They understand that people give to causes by members’ homes, backstage, etc.14 | INCREMENTAL FUNDRAISINg
  14. 14. • Other donors want exciting social interaction—a For years, governments and corporations helped place to go again and again, to see the same close this gap. While government and corporate people in a comfortable environment, to giving officers remain important members in find companionship, or to develop personal many families, for all but a few these sources or professional interests. Organizations with are now marginal. Even where they remain, physical spaces and regular programming are managers know their future is unpredictable and best equipped to service this mentality. But, presents no basis for sustainable growth. even a touring dance company can partner with a cultural center in its hometown to provide Nor does reliance on foundations, whose giving an ongoing and mutually beneficial series of focus and capacity is subject to frequent and workshops, master classes, salons, and other dramatic change. When an economy suffers, so activities that accomplish this purpose. do the endowments that determine their giving.• Still others wish to affiliate with organizations of Loyal program officers change jobs. giving prestige, defined by the caliber, quality, visibility, priorities change. And once an organization and scale of the programs, people, and talent has approached all institutions that fund its they attract. These donors seek personal status type of activity, there is nowhere else to turn. inCremenTAl through recognition among groups of peers with While managers must work hard to cultivate and fundrAising whom they share social or professional interests. retain these influential family members, for all but the youngest organizations, support from A strategy for sustainableOnce a gift is secured, effective fundraisers foundations presents little room for growth. growth that joins long-quickly turn to stewardship. They ensure that term artistic goals,their organizations properly recognize the gift, Consequently, arts managers must be creative an energized family,fulfill promises made during cultivation, and and constant about building a diverse family of and logical options forreturn the donor to an enjoyable cycle of artistic individual supporters who expand their ranks year investment to buildand marketing efforts. This begins the process of after year. While it is true that in most communitiesrenewing the gift: of progressively engaging and there are a few, highly-visible, sought-after organizational resourcesinforming the donor, and ultimately identifying donors, there are literally hundreds or thousands donor by donor, week bythe next good fit. more within range of an enthusiastic family week, month by month, backed by an effective institutional marketing year by year.No matter how large the organization or its campaign. Too many organizations depend oncapacity, however, the pressure to renew and too few donors and suffer disproportionatelyexpand one’s family never subsides. This is when even one loses the interest or ability tobecause, fundamentally, the gap between the give. On the other hand, those that build robust,cost of performing one’s mission and what diverse families can comfortably, if regrettably,buyers are willing to pay to experience it grows say good-bye to any individual if he or she can nowider each year. longer give (or becomes a nuisance).While the cost of doing business in the arts The manager who plans art well in advance,increases yearly, our productivity—the time markets aggressively—especially among keyand human resource required to get the job game changers—and cultivates joy and easedone—stays roughly the same. In point: Mahler’s among family will enjoy incremental, organic,Symphony No. 5 still takes just about 70 minutes sustainable growth year after year.and 103 musicians to perform, the same as whenit premiered in 1904, even though the cost of At year-end, rather than crisis, the successfulemploying those musicians and producing the manager faces another critical decision: how andwork has increased exponentially. where to reinvest. INCREMENTAL FUNDRAISINg | 15
  15. 15. CONTROLLINg COST, REINVESTINg, BUILDINg CAPACITy Of course, creating great art and marketing it year.) Fundraising goals must close the gap aggressively will not alone ensure sustained between earned income and cost projections. success. One must also control cost, reinvest wisely, and build capacity in sync with the scale Throughout each season, effective managers of one’s ambition. regularly correct for aberrations from this plan. Mid-course cuts to “backstage” and All great artists are insatiable dreamers (as are all administrative budgets must account for a great managers). Our nature is to produce more, lackluster appeal, underperforming campaign, or bigger, better art, year after year. And this is as it poor sales run. should be. We all know that arts managers are ruthlessly But, for this reason, nearly every organization efficient and that few organizations in distress grows to the point where it is financially face an expense-side problem. (More often, uncomfortable. A new $50,000 grant rarely they have failed to develop adequate income.) translates into a financial reprieve; more often, it It is in our nature to relentlessly control cost, means a new $50,000 (or $75,000 or $100,000) actively negotiate with vendors, and reward program that requires even more funding and parsimonious staff who find creative ways to save capacity to continue year after year. (A related without harming the art. But it bears repeating phenomenon belies the endowment fantasy: that, especially in capacity-strapped, growing rather than turning that first distribution into organizations, there is no room to waste a single a rainy-day fund or cash buffer, the dreamer- dollar, hour, opportunity, or iota of goodwill. If artist-manager complex typically expands one can accomplish a task for less and doesn’t, programming expense by exactly the same one reduces the resources available to support increment.) The next year, the battle for a projects that help achieve one’s mission. balanced budget begins anew. All managers must perfect this balance of Therefore, the responsible manager must dreaming big, curtailing cost, maximizing sales, differentiate between our nature as dreamers and capitalizing on “familial” goodwill. and our job to dream sustainably. Artistic plans must be tied to realistic marketing plans that Finally, most successful, growing organizations estimate the earned income potential of each will require additional manpower to match venture. Artistic directors, executives, and the increasing scale of their work. Strategic boards must accept the financial implications of capacity-building as part of the reinvestment each artistic decision. Organizational capacity process should focus first on increasing revenue- to absorb failure must parallel artistic risk. (We producing potential. Organizations struggling to suggest budgeting for one or two failures each pay for existing, successful programming rarely16 | CONTROLLINg COST, REINVESTINg, BUILDINg CAPACITy
  16. 16. need additional programming manpower more An incremental approach to building staffthan they need more flexible, ample capacity capacity—in line with commensurate increasesto promote that programming among potential in family, resources, and programming—will addbuyers and donors. While the production of manpower in stages. A part-time grant writer—great art must remain the overarching priority, armed with a long-term artistic plan; a dedicated,before an organization can dramatically expand ambassadorial board; and a robust, creative,the scope or scale of that art, it must increase and cost-effective institutional marketing plan—the financial margin on its current success so that will quickly pay for himself. Before long, he isnew, more ambitious art can be made, marketed, working full-time and organizational attentionand capitalized with equal quality and success. can turn to part-time marketing assistance focused on converting marginal buyers intoAdding staff is rarely financially comfortable regular ticket-buyers and the short-term, especially for early-career In the end, this enhanced capacity to produceorganizations. However, a long-term shortage a margin on successful art strengthens theof professional staff can drain even the most operation on all fronts. Disciplined, incrementalambitious, hardscrabble artistic entrepreneur. growth in capacity—after artistic obligations haveTherefore—lacking a dedicated grant for been fulfilled—is a natural evolution of cyclicalbuilding staff capacity—a balance must be success.struck between relying so heavily on so few thatthe operation fails to deliver on its mission andtaking an unsustainable plunge. ThE (ANNOTATED) CyClE Cost Control great Art Building Capacity Programmatic Aggressive $ Marketing Institutional Family Fundraising CONTROLLINg COST, REINVESTINg, BUILDINg CAPACITy | 17
  17. 17. CONCLUSION This model—the cycle—presents a theory, priority. It takes dedication and focus to dedicate founded in observation and practice, of how time to focus on planning, especially with to build an organization into a sustainable vendors knocking at the door, staff out sick, final institution, donor by donor, day by day, season reports due, the opening next week, and so on. by season. At its heart is a dedication to, and dependence upon, long-term planning. But we also believe that this process of planning our art, marketing, and fundraising further and We understand that this will not come easily for all further in advance must start before an organization organizations. For many, the process of beginning can truly begin upon the path to institutionalization. to plan multiple seasons in advance will itself be It must become, in a very real sense, a way of life a multiseason effort. It will take time to transition for the organization and the people who run it. from a six-month plan to one that extends a year or two in advance. In some cases, it may take In the end, this cycle—including its process of several seasons before an organization develops containing cost, building capacity, and reinvesting the capacity to produce a true five-year plan. wisely—is our best buffer against the latent crises waiting patiently at our door. We all know too Because planning requires an investment of time well that our industries are volatile, that most and energy, some will argue that the process is, organizations are a single bad season, or single in itself, an unwelcome drain on limited capacity. unsuccessful production, away from crisis. These Skeptics cite an industry fraught with constant principles are designed to protect the artistic change and argue that long-term planning is process—and the people who make that process neither practical nor expedient. But to these critics possible—from the fear and instability that deplete we respectfully respond: if we do not plan, we our ranks and dilute the potency of our work. cannot grow. Our business is just too complex, too expensive, and too dependent on others to create But, don’t take our word for it. Take another the best art, with the best outcomes, in a rush. close look at the cultural organizations in your city—large and small—that are thriving: that are And when we talk about building capacity—this the talk of the town, grow year after year, and is where that process starts. The organization seem to constantly surprise with their ingenuity, that fails to plan is the organization that goes on style, quality, and grace. We will wager that suffering the most from fatigue, poor morale, each one of them regularly produces bold, disengagement, and chaos. (Sadly, even exciting, transformational art; that they market organizations that produce great art are not that art, and the institution behind it, creatively exempt from this rule.) On the other hand, the and consistently; that the number of people organization that starts to think out 18, 24, 36 surrounding them, wanting them to succeed, months further in advance gives itself the luxury expands day by day; and that, when it comes of time required to build toward bigger art— time to spend the resources produced by that including the time to hire, train, and pay for that family, they stay focused on their mission and put extra staff member to get it done well. it toward even more great art. We do not hide the fact that this kind of planning That joyous picture is the cycle in action. may require a meaningful change in habit and18 | CONCLUSION
  18. 18. Michael M. Kaiser is President of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. He has expanded theeducational and artistic programming for the nation’s center for the performing arts and has overseen a majorrenovation effort of most of the Center’s theaters. Dubbed “the Turnaround King” for his work at numerousinstitutions, including the Royal Opera House (London), American Ballet Theatre, Alvin Ailey American DanceTheater, and the Kansas City Ballet, Michael has earned international renown for his expertise in arts management.He advises performing arts organizations around the world, working with arts leaders in nearly 70 countries. Uponjoining the Kennedy Center in 2001, Michael created the Kennedy Center Arts Management Institute, renamedthe DeVos Institute of Arts Management at the Kennedy Center after a $22.5 million commitment from Dick andBetsy DeVos, which aims to train the current and next generation of arts leaders. The Institute features a varietyof initiatives and programs, including an online education forum for arts administrators at, whereprofessionals and students in the field can share experiences, seek employment, and post opportunities. Hefounded Arts in Crisis: A Kennedy Center Initiative in February 2009, and embarked on a 50-state tour to spreadhis arts expertise across the United States.Brett Egan is Director of the DeVos Institute of Arts Management at the Kennedy Center. In this capacity, Eganleads the Institute’s team of consultants and teachers in two national capacity building programs as part of theFord Foundation’s Space for Change initiative; regional capacity building programs in seven American cities;international arts management fellowships for 37 participants from 28 countries; a nine-month fellowship for mid-career North American arts executives; international arts management symposia; and long-term consultancieswith organizations, agencies, and municipalities in the United States and abroad. For more information about the DeVos Institute of Arts Management at the Kennedy Center, please visit: The DeVos Institute of Arts Management at the Kennedy Center Copyright © 2011 The DeVos Institute of Arts Management at the Kennedy CenterAll rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced, transmitted, or stored in an information retrieval system in any formor by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without written permission from the publisher. The DeVos Institute of Arts Management at the Kennedy Center 2700 F St., NW Washington, DC 20566 Manufactured in the United States of America Typeset in to come. Library of Congress Control Number: To come The Cycle: Planning for Success in the Arts by Kaiser, Michael M. and Egan, Brett—1st ed. Summary: The Cycle: Planning for Success in the Arts is need one-sentence description. ISBN # 978-0-9833379-1-1 Published by The DeVos Institute of Arts Management at the Kennedy Center 2700 F St., NW Washington, DC 20566