Tips for running an effective nonprofit arts organization

Twice a year, the Arts & Business Council of Greater Nashville (ABC) hosts “Arts Nonprofit Nuts & Bolts,” a crash course in need-to-know arts administration skills. It’s a workshop designed to help everyone from the artist turned arts administrator to the nonprofit social entrepreneur to the startup setting up a new organization. Because the best and brightest creatives often wear many hats, we’re sharing a few tips from the presenters at our most recent workshop.

Governance and Management
Ted Crockett, former executive director of the Nashville Film Festival, led a session on governance and management. These are a few of his tips for effective leadership and board development for nonprofit arts organizations:

  • The success of nonprofits relates directly to the productivity and talent of the board.
  • Educate and inform potential board members by providing them with a clear set of board member expectations prior to joining the board and a thorough orientation once they do join the board.
  • Build the board you need. Identify the talents, skills, and resources that your organization needs and recruit board members who possess the relevant expertise.
  • Maximize meetings by having a clear, concise agenda and sticking to it. Be sure that whoever is leading the meeting knows how to get the group back on task when the conversation deviates.
  • CEOs and board chairs should spend at least 20% of their efforts on board governance.

Kenya Nelson Stevens, accountant and founder of KNS Solutions Accounting, led the session on bookkeeping. She shared four takeaways relevant to bookkeeping and business success:

  • Success in life and business is conceptual. Define what success looks like for you.
  • Order, Peace, Purpose, and Prosperity is a perpetual cycle.
  • Organization and a recordkeeping system are vital to a successful business.
  • Create a system or hire a professional to help you.

Strategy for Nonprofits
James Szuch helps artists, designers, and creative makers unlock the business potential of their creative passions. He defines strategy as a compelling story, as being about people, as a team sport, and as a verb. He says:

  • A strategy that can’t be told as a story is doomed. A strategy that can be expressed as a narrative is memorable and motivates action and creates sustainable change.
  • All organizations, businesses, governments and nonprofits have stakeholders – people who care about, or who are affected by, your work and your mission.
  • Strategy only works if everyone in the team believes in it.
  • In today’s dynamic, interconnected, and pretty unpredictable world, it is important that companies stay in tune with the industry they operate in. If they don’t, they become irrelevant sooner or later.

Nonprofit consultant Jennifer Chalos, who has helped numerous arts organizations, large and small, create and implement effective development strategies and plans, shared her tips on successful fundraising.

  • Successful fundraising focuses on relationship building and making connections to a donor prospects needs and goals. Like any relationship you want to deepen and grow, donors take time and tending to for increased investments to occur.
  • Fundraising goals for nonprofits are best achieved when you fundraise from inside out. When your board, staff, volunteers, family, friends, etc. demonstrate a commitment through their personal gifts, others are likely to follow given this endorsement.
  • Nonprofits should make the case for support larger than their organization – how will investments in your project or mission impact the community? Where does your work fit into the greater framework/fabric of our city?

Whether you’re just beginning your nonprofit career in the arts or you’re a longtime administrator looking to enhance your existing skill set, the Arts & Business Council is excited to support your professional development. If you’d like to learn more about arts management, save the date for Arts Nonprofit Nuts & Bolts in June 2019.

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