This is a guest post from Michael Culler. With over 15 years of nonprofit industry experience, Michael has worked with nonprofit customers across North America and the United Kingdom to implement full-scale projects and business process improvement projects. Over the past eight years, Michael has been specifically focused on the Arts and Cultural marketplace and is an active participant in delivering speaking engagements and contributing to trade publication articles.
It’s the beginning of the New Year and many of us have made new personal commitments, resolutions, themes, and outlooks for 2014. It’s what we all are expected to do, isn’t it?
However, in thinking about our business of Arts and Culture, can we confidently say we put the same rigor towards our organizational goals and objectives? In my years of working in the nonprofit sector, I’ve found that we run the risk of continuing more of the same year over year….same expectations around subscriber renewals, same expectations around membership retention, same expectations of conversion of ticket buyers to donors, same, same, same. Sure, it makes things easier but easy isn’t necessarily the right solution to maintain a healthy organization.
While we may have a business plan for the year in our different departmental areas, have we truly taken the time to holistically evaluate what will be different in the coming year and how we will get there? How likely are we to get caught in the perceived trap of there not being enough time to be thoughtful in our strategies and instead of looking for growth opportunities just try to maintain what we have?
A quick exercise to envision where you would like to head would be to start with the following to confirm all stakeholders involved are on the same page:
- What defines arts and culture in your community?
- How do you internally define arts and culture?
- What are your strengths and opportunities for improvement based on these definitions?
- Is there a gap that is not being fulfilled in your community today that you could directly or indirectly begin to fill?
Based on the collaboration and consensus from the visioning exercise, define your goals and actions for the year.
Successful organizations are using the following themes to set up their goals:
1. Know Your Data
- Who is served by your organization and who is the audience?
- How many members, donors, ticket buyers, subscribers, etc. do you have?
- Is this different than what was assumed to be true and is this different than in years past?
- Everything else hinges on data, so if you don’t know, then make a plan to find out quickly.
- Find ways to better capture information about your different constituencies and make it straightforward for people to share with you. It starts either with a simple ask or incentive to provide the information.
- Knowing more about your audience from who they are to what they want from you organizationally is critical to success.
3. Communicate Your Key Drivers
- All staff members, regardless of role, need to understand the goals for the year. If you plan to increase retention of new acquisitions in 2014 or you want to lessen attrition rates, everyone must be in the know.
- Define how can each staff member influence or impact the results.
One more word to the wise, when you’re setting your goals don’t forget the basic elements of constituent relationships:
4. Maintain Loyalty
- It costs 5 times more to obtain a new donor than keep an existing one.
- The first gift is important. Make sure donors know it in the thank you.
5. Remember Every Donor and Patron is Important
- Don’t assume the top of the fundraising pyramid is the absolute best. Many will never get there.
- A main reason for ceasing involvement is because they think you don’t care.
6. Say Thank You Early and Often
- Have genuine thanks also come from a performer, artist, or someone impacted by your programming, etc.
7. Ask for Feedback
- Know how your constituencies want to be engaged.
- Are you thanking them adequately?
- Are you giving them enough opportunities to remain involved and supportive in their current capacity?
- Give them an opportunity to have a voice about their experience.
Best of luck to everyone as we start a new year and turn your resolutions into habits in all the years to come! And let us know how it goes!
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