In Cleveland, a $5 million program to help local arts groups adapt to change

Cleveland Plain Dealer, 6/28/11

The message from the Cleveland Foundation to the city's arts organizations isn't quite as blunt as change or die. But it's close, and there's urgency behind it. The foundation's trustees voted to approve a three-year, $5 million-plus program aimed at helping a dozen hand-picked organizations. The premise behind the program, called "Engaging the Future," is that while Northeast Ohio boasts enviable strength in the arts, those riches could dwindle unless organizations adapt quickly to changes in demographics, technology, cultural tastes and lifestyles.  "We're looking at a traditional audience base shrinking in a city that's not growing," said Kathleen Cerveny, the foundation's director of evaluation and institutional learning. "If the arts are to survive, they need to attract people that aren't going now." The foundation's initiative will include three years of operating support at present levels for the selected institutions, plus workshops and seminars led by EmcArts, a New York-based consulting group that specializes in helping cultural organizations adapt to change. The firm will help participating organizations develop their own in-house teams aimed at promoting change from within. "The arts are among the most risk-averse non-profits that there are," Cerveny said. "It is so hard to get the resources that they need to do what they do that they can't take the chance to change something, even if it's not working well. So how do you step out of your comfort zone and bring your organization along with you?"


Commentary: 7 ways to adapt your fundraising when everything is changing

Katya Andresen, Nonprofit Marketing Blog, 7/26/11

1. Put the donor at the center. Reorganize your organization around the donor. Tear down the walls around your technology, marketing, fund-raising, and communications departments, and rebuild the organization in a way that creates a completely supporter-centric experience.

2. Approach fund-raising as giving, not getting. Good fund-raising is about giving-an experience, a chance to change the world, gratitude-not extracting. It's about conversation, not monologue. Give credit to your supporters instead of yourself. Listen and follow more than you talk and recruit. When people retweet your content or spread the word, profusely thank and highlight them. Spend more time pointing to the work of others and celebrating what they say than you do talking about yourself.

3. Think of technology as an embrace. Use technology to build a new intimacy with your community. Your website should be architected according to the interests of its visitors. Your donation page should be as emotionally engaging as your cause. Every e-mail campaign should be segmented according to the interests of your supporters. Give your community a voice and presence in all you do online.

4. Be the progress bar of your cause. When we download something, we see a progress bar inching toward an outcome. What is your progress bar? Which events, stories, or experiences can make a donor feel that she's walking a road with you, toward a destination that is near?

5. Make your community part of the solution. By now, we all know we can't control our message. We should also recognize we should not be our only messengers. Let supporters write your appeals. Give them the tools to take your message around the Internet. Ensure that all you do online is portable. Make it easier for your supporters to find and connect with each other.

6. Cultivate according to who and where the donor is. As all the changes described here start to unfold, you'll find that people come to your cause with varying degrees of familiarity with it. They may have come to you not because of you, but because of a friend. Your engagement needs to be tailor-made to how they came to support you, and it needs to hold their interests over time.

7. Tell old stories in new ways. The best way to connect to someone has always been-and will always be-stories. Technology is an amazing storytelling vehicle. You can make a supporter part of a story, transport them around the world with videos and front-line blogging, or enable them to experience the changes they make with pictures and firsthand accounts.


In the U.K., a 'change programme' to help arts adapt to, not assimilate, technology website

[Launched as a pilot project in England from 2007-2009,] Amb:IT:ion is a change programme for the arts and cultural sector - helping organisations achieve their 21st century sustainability ambitions through implementing integrated IT and digital developments. Amb:IT:ion England champion Bill Thompson suggested that organisations most likely to thrive in the 21st century were those that were moving from a position of 'assimilation' (where the digital is assimilated into existing modes of thinking) to 'adaptation' (where existing thinking is changed to accommodate the new possibilities and potential of the digital). It is critical that the cultural sector not only keeps up with digital developments - such as those adopted by the wider creative industries - but that it successfully develops its own, suitable to its content, audiences and aspirations! We have found specifically that small to medium sized creative organisations are most likely to benefit from digital developments but are limited in their capacity to embrace change. Put simply, their current knowledge base, limited staffing capacity and scale means that many cannot sustain new digital developments alone. Different types of collaboration have to be encouraged to ensure innovation. Events like Digital 2011, which emerged from a strategic partnership with Interactive Scotland, have given us a tested model for brokering cross-sector collaborations.

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