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More Tips from the Field

We continue our survey of local arts leaders for their advice to other arts and cultural organizations. "What best practice tips would you offer to create/sustain a successful organization?"

Andrew McMasters, Producer/Artistic Director, Wing-It Productions
"I think there are ways of 'surviving' the present economy that all theaters should be thinking about: diversifying our income base, finding new sources of income, and operating like a for-profit business. We have become too complacent and addicted to donations and support - and when the economy changes we are at a loss. Meanwhile income sources are being wasted at our fingertips, and our largest resource - the pool of talent we have here in the Pacific Northwest - is being underutilized. I look towards new economic models like the Capital Hill Arts Center - with a restaurant, yoga studio and coffee shop on premises. Services that patrons and your core constituency use everyday incorporated into your arts venue. This brings in revenue, and serves the public as well. But it is outside the traditional realm of not-for-profit theater. We need to not be afraid to create new partnerships, ventures and wealth. And in order to do this, we need to reach outside of our organizations and work together to make the entire community we live in stronger."

Wing-It Productions is dedicated to producing theatrical events to enlighten and entertain audiences of all ages using all mediums of theater and multimedia. Our mission is to create improvisational-based theater and other theatrical events, and to educate audiences in the ideas and philosophy of improvisation.

Paul Meecham, Executive Director, Seattle Symphony
"1 - Reaffirm your organization's mission and stay on that course to keep from straying too far and doing things outside your core activities until such time as the economy recovers.

"2 - Be honest and forthright with your Board and employees about your organization's current and future financial situation, and solicit their ideas for improving the bottom line.

"3 - Make good use of volunteers. If you have a small staff, don't try to do everything yourself."

The Seattle Symphony is recognized for its adventurous programming and tradition of performing music by contemporary composers. It is one of the world's most recorded orchestras, represented on more than 80 compact discs and recognized with 10 Grammy nominations. From September through July each year, the Seattle Symphony is heard live in Benaroya Hall by more than 300,000 people.

Laura Penn, Managing Director, INTIMAN Theatre
"Keep your eye on the prize. Don't lose sight of your vision. Keep in mind what you want to look like when the storm clears.

"Leaders of your organization have to be excited about what your organization does, and have to relay that excitement to the staff, the Board, donors and the public.

"Be disciplined and honest with your staff and your board. Work with the happiest people you can and keep your sense of humor. And spend some time in your own life.

"Maintaining a positive cash flow is key, and strong budgeting, planning and understanding within the organization and an involved board is critical. Unless you have all the money you need, you're going to have to be creative and lean. Be up front and clear about what your organization needs, and don't be afraid to ask your board, donors and friends to help."

INTIMAN Theatre produces classics, contemporary plays and world premieres, along with numerous artist conversations, education programs and community collaborations.

Ron Chew, Executive Director, Wing Luke Asian Museum
"Make sure the community relationships are always nourished. They will sustain you through good times and bad."

The Wing Luke Asian Museum engages the Asian Pacific American communities and the public in exploring issues related to the culture, art and history of Asian Pacific Americans.

D. David Brown, Executive Director, Pacific Northwest Ballet
"When negotiating:

always get the other person to say a number first;
always protest that it is too much;
the first person to put it in writing usually wins."

Pacific Northwest Ballet, internationally recognized for its performances, also provides extensive dance education and outreach programs to the greater Seattle area and opportunities for community involvement which place it in the top tier of American dance institutions.

Don Hudgins, Executive Director, Center on Contemporary Art (CoCA)
"I think one of the best recommendations I can make to small organizations locally is to work with professional grant writers from Puget Sound Grantwriters Association. While it is always tempting to try to do everything yourself including grant writing, if you are a small organization like CoCA, it is very easy to get stretched thin and grant writing is not an area to be overlooked. It can be the very lifeblood of any nonprofit. And working with a professional will not only help keep your efforts on track, it will result in increased return on time and provide new prospects.

"The temptation to ask grant writers to work on commission should also be avoided for many reasons. Foremost of these is that you will be submitting inferior materials and thereby undermining your efforts. It is also considered unethical to ask professional grant writers to raise their own salary."

CoCA serves the Pacific Northwest as a catalyst and forum for the advancement, development, and understanding of contemporary art. CoCA provides opportunities for the art audience in this region to view new and experimental artwork firsthand in exhibitions that show the work of international, national and local artists.

Speight Jenkins, General Director, Seattle Opera
"Strive for the highest level of performance that you think your finances will bear. Never play down to your audiences. Plan, plan, plan. Try to work out a fund raising and business plan, and carefully determine what you honestly think you can raise and what you can take in from the box office. Take care of your staff."

Seattle Opera strives to produce musically extraordinary, theatrically compelling operas, employing uniformly high-quality casts, dramatically aware conductors, and innovative yet textually concerned directors and designers. Seattle Opera commits itself to advancing the cultural life of the Pacific Northwest.

TIPS FOR GREAT GRANTWRITING
YOUR ORGANIZATION AND THE IRS
GET THE WORD OUT ABOUT YOUR ARTS EVENTS
AMERICANS FOR THE ARTS BOOKSTORE
ARTISTS: EMPLOYEE OR CONTRACTOR?
MUST READS FOR ARTS MANAGERS - PART 1
MUST READS FOR ARTS MANAGERS - PART 2
ORGANIZATIONAL MAGNETISM: PART ONE
ORGANIZATIONAL MAGNETISM: PART TWO
ORGANIZATIONAL MAGNETISM: PART THREE
OVERCOMING BARRIERS TO BOARD DIVERSITY
TIPS FROM THE FIELD
MORE TIPS FROM THE FIELD
PLANNING EFFECTIVE MEETINGS
BUILDING EFFECTIVE BOARDS
THE PRESS KIT
MOTIVATING VOLUNTEERS
DELIVERING OUTSTANDING CUSTOMER SERVICE
Shown: Seattle Youth Symphony. Photo: Colleen Boyce.
Seattle Youth Symphony.
Photo: Colleen Boyce.
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