Michael Kaiser's 10 Commandments

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:

  1. The organization must have a leader – one person needs to be in charge.
  2. The leader must have a plan, and the plan must relate to the cycle of healthy arts organizations.
  3. You can’t save your way to health; you can’t get healthy by cutting programs.
  4. Focus on today and tomorrow, not yesterday. Don’t relive past problems.
  5. Extend the artistic planning calendar from 6 to 18 months to 3, 4, or 5 years.
  6. Marketing is more than brochures, ads, and email blasts. Institutional marketing is essential.
  7. The organization must have one spokesperson and the message must be positive.
  8. When you’re about to go bankrupt, you can’t focus on the $50 donor.
  9. The board must be willing to restructure itself.
  10. 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.

About the author

Ann Drinan
Ann Drinan

Ann Drinan, Senior Editor, has been a member of the Hartford Symphony viola section for over 30 years. She is a former Chair of the Orchestra Committee, former member of the HSO Board, and has served on many HSO committees. She is also the Executive Director of CONCORA (CT Choral Artists), a professional chorus based in Hartford and New Britain, founded by Artistic Director Richard Coffey. Ann was a member of the Advisory Board of the Symphony Orchestra Institute (SOI), and was the HSO ROPA delegate for 14 years, serving as both Vice President and President of ROPA. In addition to playing the viola and running CONCORA, Ann is a professional writer and editor, and has worked as a consultant and technical writer for software companies in a wide variety of industries for over 3 decades. (She worked for the Yale Computer Science Department in the late 70s, and thus has been on the Internet, then called the DARPAnet, since 1977!) She is married to Algis Kaupas, a sound recordist, and lives a block from Long Island Sound in Branford CT. Together they create websites for musicians: shortbeachwebdesign.com.

Ann holds a BA in Music from the University of Wisconsin, Madison, and an MA in International Relations from Yale University.

Read Ann Drinan's blog here. web.esm.rochester.edu/poly/author/ann-drinan

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