For the next few months, we will be using the alphabet as a novel way to unpack the many concepts of arts administration. Please join in. Thank you to the following arts administrators for adding ideas to the project:
- Ashley Thorndike-Youssef, Now Next Dance
- Fernando Maneca, BAX | Brooklyn Arts Exchange
- Hillary Kooistra, Abraham.In.Motion
- Kathryn Humphreys, Hubbard Street Chicago
- Katie Kruger, Shawl-Anderson Dance Center
- Liz Hitchcock Lisle, Shotgun Players
- Phyllis Haskell Tims, University of Utah (retired)
- Rebecca A. Ferrell, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign
- Sarah Crowell, Destiny Arts Center
- Tammy Cheney, Lines Ballet
Arts administration relates to work at dance centers, arts councils, arts education programs, companies, and college programs. Please read on to explore the many and varied topics within arts administration. While not every topic applies to every setting, we hope that you will still find one or two ideas in the post that are useful and applicable to your particular setting. Please feel free to add ideas and links in the comments section below.
The letter D:
- Darren Walker
- Dealing with difficult people
- Decisionmaking process
- Development work
- Documenting conflict
- Donors, donations, donation letters
Let's unpack, consider, and reflect upon each one of these words. Even before reading further, you might want to take the list of 9 ideas here and simply journal for your organization. What do these words and phrases mean to you at your organization?
Dance/USA is the national service organization for the field. Whether you regularly read the email blast, the blog posts, or consider the yearly conference....the membership fee is well-worth it. Dance/USA - based in the DC area - advocates for our work and for funding. The articles, research, and conferences are always timely and useful to arts administrators throughout the country. And their job list is the most comprehensive list of arts admin jobs around the US....
Darren Walker leads the Ford Foundation, and is inspiring and challenging administrators throughout the country right now. Check out his thought-provoking commentary on internships and tackling inequality through philanthropy:
"Internships Are Not a Privilege": https://www.nytimes.com/2016/07/05/opinion/breaking-a-cycle-that-allows-privilege-to-go-to-privileged.html
"Moving the Ford Foundation Forward": https://www.fordfoundation.org/ideas/equals-change-blog/posts/moving-the-ford-foundation-forward/
As Fernando Maneca of the Brooklyn Arts Exchange noted, "Most of us function very well on intuition, but do we really know what we 'know?' "
What data can you gather for your organization each year, such as
- Number of youth served
- Number of adult students per week
- Amount of your scholarship fund
- Hours you dedicate for artists in your studios
- Number of audience members
- Statistics about your students and audience: age, gender, sexual orientation, income, zip code, cultural background, education level, etc.
- Career paths of the graduates in your program
Data is so valuable for donation letters and donation drives, grants, expansion efforts, and development efforts in general.
Dealing with difficult people
Difficult people - whether students, colleagues, the landlord, or parents......
First of all, what does good customer service look like for your organization?
Second, what are the sources of difficult conversations, or unhappiness from students, colleagues, parents, etc?
Does everyone on staff know who handles complaints and handles it when a sit-down or mediation of sorts needs to happen?
Clarity, support, documentation....
Decisionmaking process (staff, board, staff AND board, etc)
This is another valuable topic to discuss and clarify with your staff. Who decides to add, cut, or expand? Who approves the budget, and pay increases? How often are pay increases considered?
When is it appropriate for staff to offer ideas and input?
Transparency, clarity, respect, thinking ahead, inclusion....
Delegating is one of the most important actions for a leader in arts administration. What are your priorities and goals? What do you need to personally handle? What tasks and projects can others support or spearhead?
I recently sat down and estimated how I divided up my 40 hours of work each week. It was really illuminating how I was using my time. Some things took up way too much time, and could be places where I ask for support and delegate tasks...
Since arts administrators and arts orgs are notoriously understaffed and super busy, delegation is one of the most important steps to take on a monthly basis.
Development = fundraising, donations, donors, support, contributed revenue. This work takes time, patience, planning, and tons of follow up.
Ideally, your organization has a staff person dedicated to this work, whether full-time or part-time. This person is creating a plan, implementing the plan, and keeping the key perspective in terms of how much income is contributed and earned for your organization.
Is development work happening on a weekly basis at your organization right now?
This topic goes hand-in-hand with the "dealing with difficult people." It is imperative to keep a file - on the computer or in a file cabinet - of all conflicts small and large. Whether this is a note you jot down, or an email from a student or parent, you must keep everything. As arts administrators, it is our job to handle these ideas and to decide when actions must follow the conflicts.
Professional behavior, support, care of customers, care of staff, mission-minded employees....
Donors, donations, donation letters
With the development work just mentioned above, donors, donations, and donation letters are key players and items.
Donors: How many do you have? What categories of giving do you have? Are people repeat donors year after year? Each year, how can this circle of people keep growing (and how do you maximize recent alumni and families from your programs)?
Are you on top of donation thank you letters, acknowledgments on your website, and listing donors in your building and in your paper programs?
Donations: Money, stock, in kind services? What do donations look like? Can you expand and maximize ideas - to include things such as graphic design, web design, and painting the studios?
Donation letters: Are you sending out a letter multiple times a year? Paper copies or via email?
Also, do you keep a file of other organizations' donation letters - to gain perspective on the field? Which letter recently caught your attention and why?