This is a post from John McLachlan’s blog here.
The trick to surviving in this small, cash-strapped world of non-profit arts seems to me to be about taking the long view and using all the tools you have whether they be knowledge of opportunities, knowledge of the landscape and the world around you or even your “spidey” sense of where things are headed.
Cuts to arts funding are raging through the system right now in my home province of British Columbia. Organizations are freaking out as they receive letters telling them their funding is being cut by 50%, 60% and even 100% in some cases.
The hornets nest has been disturbed. Everyone is buzzing like crazy and looking for people to sting such as the Minister, the Premier, the Government in general and even other arts organizations who “got more than we did.”
Yes, having funding cut to zero is an emergency. Yes, having funding cut by 50% is serious. Organizations need to deal with it or maybe decide to fold and put their efforts to better use in a newer, more effective way.
Provided an organization isn’t dead and there is some chance of a future, even if it’s remote, then they’ve just been handed a great opportunity to remake themselves and be better because of it.
The biggest danger
The biggest danger I see for non-profits are the ones that have been funded to the point that they are still ok. It’s very easy to be lulled into complacency and not make the changes necessary to be more fit and strong.
“If it ain’t broke, you just haven’t looked hard enough” business author and strategist Tom Peters has been known to say. I think this advice for the non-profit arts sector is very timely.
I believe organizations should be opening up to new ideas and getting their ear to the ground, listening to members, talking to people outside their usual focus and, yes, looking down the road to how they could see the world being and how they could see their organization working in that new world.
What if they’d done that five years ago? Would they be in such dire shape today?
A common theme:
- So many non-profits:
- start out small and smart
- get funding
- start new projects
- get more funding
- go after projects in different areas
- get funding from only one or two sources
- start feeling entitled to what they get
- get sloppy
- have too much staff
- have an office space they can’t really afford
- morph themselves to fit other project funding
- lose their way and become mediocre
- receive funding cuts
- scream and rant
- cut back
- refuse to change
- struggle along on life-support slowly becoming less and less relevant but taking years to die.
For god’s sake, if you are running a non-profit arts organization and you still have a pulse, REMAKE YOURSELF NOW.