Michael Kaiser, CEO of the Kennedy Center and author of The Art of the Turnaround: Creating and Maintaining Healthy Arts Organizations, has been travelling the country, speaking in all 50 states about how non-profit arts organizations can weather the current economic downturn. On June 10 he came to Connecticut; I attended his New Haven session at the Yale Art Gallery. About 150 people from area arts organizations attended – he gave another session in Hartford in the afternoon. Both sessions were moderated by Diane Smith, a well-known CT television and radio journalist.
Michael presented his ten commandments of how to create and maintain a healthy arts organization. I have written a detailed account of his presentation, including questions posed by Diane Smith and by audience members; you can access this article on the Polyphonic home page or click here.
To summarize, the 10 commandments are:
- The organization must have a leader – one person needs to be in charge.
- The leader must have a plan, and the plan must relate to the cycle of healthy arts organizations.
- You can’t save your way to health; you can’t get healthy by cutting programs.
- Focus on today and tomorrow, not yesterday. Don’t relive past problems.
- Extend the artistic planning calendar from 6 to 18 months to 3, 4, or 5 years.
- Marketing is more than brochures, ads, and email blasts. Institutional marketing is essential.
- The organization must have one spokesperson and the message must be positive.
- When you’re about to go bankrupt, you can’t focus on the $50 donor.
- The board must be willing to restructure itself.
- You must have the discipline to do the first 9 rules, and keep doing them.
He also has an 11th rule – seek joint ventures with other organizations. His website, artsmanager.org, has a wide variety of information, including several videos and a free book on strategic planning.