Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Kitchen Cabinets

Good morning
"And the beat goes on...................."

I came across an article on Tim Cook, Apple CEO, noting a list of five people he calls on for advice and counsel on specific issues - people apart from his staff and usual advisors and counselors.  A heady list, they included Warren Buffet, Bill Clinton, Anderson Cooper, Lloyd Blankenfein (Goldman Sachs CEO) and Steve Jobs' widow Laurene Jobs,  but then again if you're the CEO of the world's most valuable company, makers of the ubiquitous iPhone and iPad, you have access to people mere mortals do not.

But it occurred to me that this idea of having a kitchen cabinet of advisors  apart from your staff, board and usual people with whom you confer, is a good idea for any organization - of any size, in any field and at any stage of its existence.

In the arts, I can imagine it being valuable to cultivate relationships with people you identify as smart, insightful, willing to share knowledge and time, and who have some requisite experience and credentials that would qualify them as people you would like to be able to call - now and again - for specific advise on topics and issues in their area of expertise.  They don't have to be the elite of some mythical 'A' List - they need only be intelligent and willing to share with you because you will share with them; people in your area and your geography, or perhaps in some cases a little further afar.  These are not your daily advisors, but rather people you call on for special circumstances.

For the Arts, my list of five such advisors and confidantes might include people in:

1.  Philanthropy - someone in the arts foundation or public funding system who might help you from time to time with issues in fundraising, grant applications, project formation, policy development - from specifics about a campaign, or a funding goal, to overall policy matters --- a program officer in an arts funding foundation or a development specialist at another nonprofit, or the Executive Director of a city, county, or state government agency.  Someone you might be able to tap when you have some important (to your organization) question or issues.

2.  The Community - someone who understands the subtleties and dances of the culture of your organization's community - where you physically reside, the composition of your support, your audience, and all the other organizations that make up your eco-system neighborhood.  This person might be outside the arts or work along with you.  To best relate to your community, you may, from time to time, need to tap into someone who understands it (not better, but on a different level), and from a different perspective than you do.  Communities, even small, insular ones, are complex systems with layers on layers of assets, needs, deficits and potential.

3.  Government:  An Elected or Appointed Official - a city councilperson, a mayor, a local Congress person - or the head of the school board, or the chief of staff of any of these, or the head of a local government agency.  Sometimes, you need some insider advise and opinion about matters that affect your organization and your sector from a political place.  And sometimes, you need a favor.

4.  Media - a reporter at a local television station, a writer for a magazine, an online local blogger or noted personality, a p.r. agent.  Sometimes you need somebody from that field to help you understand why what you are doing is or isn't working like you had hoped, and changes that might yield you better results.

5.  Nonprofit Governance - someone in your position at another organization that you  can commiserate with; someone who can understand the problems and issues that come up in running an organization - large or small, new or old.  And sometimes you need some help with the various components of the governance of your organization - including your Board, and that person might be a friend who happens to be on the Board of a different organization - even one not in the arts field.  The point is Governance doesn't always work as its suppose to, and sometimes an outside voice can help you untangle the mess., or at least see it from a different vantage point.

Doubtless most of you already know at least one or two people who might fit the above categories, but perhaps have never thought of them as a semi "official" source of help.  And it would not be that hard to recruit people in the other categories (or in categories of your own that are more relevant to your work).  Make up a list and work through it.  You don't have to necessarily codify these roles until such time as you have need to seek some input from your list of possible advisors on something specific.  And if you have to go through a number of people over a period of time to get your short list of people, that's ok and part of the process.  A truly valuable set of people who you can talk to about important matters as they arise is something that will take time to develop, nurture and grow.  Start now with the idea of the names that might be on your list.

Remember this:  you can cold call anyone, and in the arts that includes virtually everyone no matter how exalted they may seem.  Try it, you'll be surprised how many people you don't know, but  believe have experience that will benefit you, will return your phone calls and help if they can.  That doesn't mean you ought to rush to tap into any and everyone for superficial advice, but if you have a genuine issue that someone might help you see more clearly, my guess is most people, in our world,  if they have the time at the moment, and if they actually can help, will help.

In the long term, not only will you end up with an excellent circle of advisors, but that network can grow stronger over time and may yield all kinds of positive benefits unanticipated and unforeseeable at the outset. Your group may end up the celebrated "A List" of your domain.

Advice - good advice - is of infinite value to every leader, every organization.  It makes sense to cultivate it.

Have a great week.

Don't Quit

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Aging of America. What Does It Mean for the Future of the Arts?

Good morning.
"And the beat goes on............."

America is dealing with both ends of population changes:  1) the coming of age of the Millennials, now having surpassed the Baby Boomers in absolute numbers; and 2) the aging of those Baby Boomers as they begin, en masse, to become seniors (aged 65 and up). 

We're aware of the challenges of involving more Millennials in our work - as audiences, supporters, donors, advocates and employees and leaders.  We are also going to face the challenges of Boomers declining as audiences, supporters, donors, advocates, and, of course, the transition of leadership.

According to projections of the Senior Population by Seniorcare.com, there are currently almost 50 million people in the U.S. 65 and older, which number is expected to climb to 83 million by 2050 (just 30+years from now).

And every state is expected to share in that aging process.  Some states will, of course, have larger aging populations than others. According to Seniorcare, these eight states have the greatest number of seniors:
  • Montana
  • North Dakota
  • Wyoming
  • New Mexico
  • Florida
  • West Virginia
  • Vermont
  • Maine
That's of some significance because as Seniors age there are greater health costs to be born by those states, and the money spent on seniors is money not available for other needs.  Despite our substantial progress in making the value connection between aging and the arts, competing funding demands may mean less for the arts in many places.   Then too, despite the rosy picture of increased longevity of life spans and the pleasures of leisure pursuits in our old age that we like to project, the reality is that many seniors suffer serious health issues and have depleted financial resources - particularly for leisure time activities.  As people age they may be far less likely to be audiences for our performances or exhibitions, and because many of them will face financial challenges, fewer may be able to be financial supporters of our field.

As a senior dealing with some health issues, I know first hand, that situation impacts my time, wallet and inclination towards leisure time.  The issue isn't just about the expense (though for many that has, or will, be a factor), but also about how much time, energy and enthusiasm one has for pursuits outside of trying to deal with health challenges.  The heart and mind may be willing, but for many seniors the 'body' simply won't feel like being in an audience or involved in an organization.  And many of those that may end up in that situation may very well be people who formerly were very active attendees, supporters and advocates. What will it mean when more and more of them excuse themselves from our tables?  Because that is likely.

This raises numerous questions about how to prepare for this shift.  What are the ways we can minimize seniors flight from audiences and support?  What kind of approaches might maximize continued senior involvement in the arts at all levels?  Who will design, fund, implement and manage those kinds of approaches?  How will we compete for scarce government resources when up against the health needs of seniors, and other pressing needs and causes?

Do we need research that helps us to understand at what point those who become seniors are more likely to be candidates for involvement in the arts, and at what point are they less likely?    Who falls into each category?    

Are the states that are likely to face the biggest challenges by the growing senior population (including the oldest of the older cohorts - those 80 and above) prepared for these changes and challenges?  What can they do?  What should they do?  And what should the rest of the states do?

And perhaps the most important question is when ought we start doing something?  Clearly the private sector has begun thinking about the challenge of the growing senior population.  One need only look at television commercials and note the now established pattern of ever increasing pharmaceutical company advertisements aimed at seniors and the plethora of conditions seniors are beginning to deal with.  This is a growth market for them.  And they have obviously concluded that network and broadcast television is the optimum medium to reach this audience.  That suggests to me that increasingly senior income will be spent on dealing with health issues.  On the other hand, it would seem the film industry has begun to abandon the market in favor of both the younger Millennial markets and the family market with blockbuster action films aimed at the 18-30 males, and animated features aimed at families with younger kids.   Some industries will forsake the senior audience, other industries will court it.  And those decisions are likely the result of research and judgments.   Which end of the spectrum will we end up on, and is it likely some arts organizations will embrace the senior growth market, while others of us, flee from it?

Which direction would be best for the arts?  My guess is most of us will say both - we must court the younger audiences and retain the older ones - both with new approaches and thinking.  And that is a romantic notion, but is it smart?  It seems a reasonable question for us to ask.  Along with how we go about whatever decisions we make.

Tick tock.  4400+ boomers turn 65 every day.  16 million a year.  In the short run that is a potential boon.  Or is it?  And the long run?  How ought it affect our marketing strategies, our content approaches, our audience development and our financial thinking?

Have a good week.

Don't Quit