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Tips from the Field

We asked the experts - those working in the field - for their advice for other arts and cultural organizations. "What best practice tips would you offer to create and/or sustain a successful organization?" Focusing on the organization's mission seems to be the recurring theme.

Matthew Richter, Founder and Executive Director,
Consolidated Works

"One, do what you want to do. Don't worry inordinately about how to start a business, how to incorporate a non-profit, how to get your
501(c)3, how to form a board, all of that crap. Do what it is you think is important to do, do your mission, and the organizational formatting will follow (if you're doing it right).

"Two, reinvent the wheel. Learn from other models and know the context within which you're creating your organization, but in the end, this is an organization you have to live with (and within). You are the designer, the builder and the driver of this wheel of an organization. Make it suit your needs. Presumably, that's why you're founding something instead of job-hunting.

"Three, treat your people right. Odds are you're not paying market scale for the amount of work people are doing for the project. This is, unfortunately, the nature of small nonprofits. As a founder, your stewardship responsibilities extend to staff, volunteers, donors, audiences and vendors. Slow down and treat them with the respect they all deserve (even if they don't).

"Four, wear your game face. Is the ceiling crashing in around you? Is there a fire raging in the back office? Do you hate everyone? Is something slimy crawling up your leg? Fine. Don't let us see it. Present a calm, collected, confident and forward-looking exterior to the public, no matter what disasters you have to manage behind closed doors.

"Five, eyes on the prize. Always have an answer when people ask you where you want to be in five years."

Matthew Richter is the founder and executive director of Consolidated Works, Seattle's multi-disciplinary contemporary arts center. ConWorks houses a 150-seat mainstage theater, 50-seat cinema, 5,000-square foot visual arts gallery, music stage, arts resource center, three artist-in-residence studios, full bar and lounge, and administrative space for six fellow nonprofit organizations.

Leonard Garfield, Executive Director,
Museum of History & Industry (MOHAI)

"Build on your strengths - focus on doing what you already do well!

"Remember that EVERYONE you meet is a potential member of your theatre, visitor to your museum, patron of your art - you may be surprised to discover how many people want YOUR services!

"Join with partners--it spreads the work and spreads the word!"

MOHAI is the definitive place for everyone with a passion, curiosity or question about the history of Seattle and King County since 1850.

Michael Seiwerath, Executive Director, Northwest Film Forum
"Let your mission, not funders' priorities, guide your growth."

The Northwest Film Forum (NWFF) is a Seattle-based 501(c)3 nonprofit organization dedicated to becoming the nationšs leading center for film artists.

David Armstrong, Producing Artistic Director,
The 5th Avenue Theatre.

"My advice would be to establish a specific mission and a distinctive vision and then stick to it. Be bold and original and do not water your mission down by 'playing it safe'. At the same time I would encourage groups to work actively to connect with their audience. Include them in both your art and process."

The 5th Avenue Theatre is a nonprofit theater company that produces and presents America's great indigenous art-form - the musical.

Spider Kedelsky, Director of Community Programs, Town Hall
"Articulate the mission and goals of your organization and remain true to them. They are a touchstone to return to again and again.

"Ambition is to be admired, but small steps taken well are far better than big ones done badly.

"Don't hesitate to ask for advice from colleagues and others in the field when you have the need, but be clear and directed as to what information you are seeking.

"Making a mistake is often the best experience for learning. Making the same mistake again and again is a recipe for disaster."

Town Hall is Seattle's community culture center located in the historic First Hill neighborhood. Town Hall showcases the community's cultural energy with diverse music, arts and humanities, civic discourse and world culture programming.

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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