No Easy Answers

Last week’s poll asking readers whether or not they think it is appropriate for performing arts service organizations to apply for public and/or private grants alongside member organizations produced some fascinating results. At the time this post was written there were just under 100 responses. Although there was no heavy majority, the overall attitude toward service organizations competing with members for grants was unfavorable. At the same time, the vast majority of readers had clear attitudes on the topic as only seven percent of respondents indicated they weren’t sure about how they felt…

Question: Do you think it is appropriate for performing arts service organizations to apply for public and/or private grants alongside member organizations?
Question: Do you think it is appropriate for performing arts service organizations to apply for public and/or private grants alongside member organizations?

Although service organizations are almost certainly concerned about how member stakeholders assess their policies and practices, the group with the greatest amount of interaction is between the service organization and member administrators and board members. Out of those participating in the poll, 20 percent identified himself/herself as a manager or board member, nine percent as professional artists, and eight percent as a performing arts service organization employee. Stakeholder affiliation among remaining respondents was indeterminable*.

Responses from managers and board members were almost evenly split with 65 percent disapproving and 45 percent approving. On the other hand, additional respondent groups were very clear on the issue with 100 percent of professional artists disapproving and 100 percent of service organization employees approving.

Although certainly unscientific, the poll results indicate that this issue warrants sincere efforts on the part of performing arts service organizations to implement a sincere internal review process with their respective members on this issue. In situations such as this, engaging competitive practices with members is not likely motivated by malice and it would be unsurprising to learn that most service organizations are completely unaware of any discontent among their members. Nonetheless, it would be in their best interest to conduct a thorough member review on the issue so the respective boards can take appropriate action by setting institutional policies that aptly reflect member views.

For the time being, this poll will remain open and provided the responses have changed significantly in one direction or another, we’ll revisit the topic in the near future. In the meantime, feel free to post a comment with your thoughts on the matter or to discuss other types of competitive behaviors between performing arts service organizations and their members.

*Keep in mind that poll participation at Adaptistration is anonymous and confidential. Rest assured that your personal information is never distributed or published.

About Drew McManus

"I hear that every time you show up to work with an orchestra, people get fired." Those were the first words out of an executive's mouth after her board chair introduced us. That executive is now a dear colleague and friend but the day that consulting contract began with her orchestra, she was convinced I was a hatchet-man brought in by the board to clean house.

I understand where the trepidation comes from as a great deal of my consulting and technology provider work for arts organizations involves due diligence, separating fact from fiction, interpreting spin, as well as performance review and oversight. So yes, sometimes that work results in one or two individuals "aggressively embracing career change" but far more often than not, it reinforces and clarifies exactly what works and why.

In short, it doesn't matter if you know where all the bodies are buried if you can't keep your own clients out of the ground, and I'm fortunate enough to say that for more than 15 years, I've done exactly that for groups of all budget size from Qatar to Kathmandu.

For fun, I write a daily blog about the orchestra business, provide a platform for arts insiders to speak their mind, keep track of what people in this business get paid, help write a satirical cartoon about orchestra life, hack the arts, and love a good coffee drink.

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