As a non-profit, there are many concerns that you must be aware of at all times. From operations to management, there are a number of issues that you deal with, but one element remains central–cost. Managing your staff and keeping costs under control is often a mammoth task with its own set of challenges.
However, as those involved in non-profit senior management often realize, cost control is not a solo effort. It is not the sole responsibility of one person to watch spending, but it is a collective effort among staff. Every staff member is responsible for looking at ways to reduce costs, and it is important to keep that in that mind as you navigate through different circumstances.
You might be surprised to realize that many of your staff members think that the term nonprofit means “we don’t have to make money” or even “we can lose money.” There is a disconnect between profits, organizational structure, and the nonprofit business overall that leads to this issue. Staff members do not often understand that nonprofit is a tax status, rather than a mode of operation. If your revenues don’t exceed your expenses then that essentially means that your symphony, opera, theater, or dance company is not sustainable, and will eventually go dark.
We all know that when times get difficult most people chip in and they do the right thing to save nonprofits from destructing. It might be as simple as saying “I’ll do it, but only because I have to keep my job!” Or in other words, tapping into basic survival instincts when times are tough and keep the operation going.
Usually, this effort begins with an instinctive focus on what the key things are that really matter to the organization. This means focusing solely on what the organization does best and doubling down on that. Generally, the thought process will be somewhat along the lines of “well that’s the way we’ve always done this.”
Tradition has its place in the world, but so does innovation. Instead of sticking to the same strategies, why not use this to diversify and grow the organization? This effort can easily become an opportunity to do something better, figure out a different way to do it faster, and ultimately, do it more efficiently.
It might seem tempting to stick to the old ways of doing things, but unfortunately, that is not really the recipe for long-term viable success. Instead, think of ways to grow and perhaps consult with someone from the outside to give you a different perspective. There might be somebody else on the outside world that is better suited to do this. Perhaps you might find someone who can do what you’ve been doing a lot better because of their prior experience of doing this for other organizations.
Ask yourself this: Do I rely on other people to do things outside of my organization?
Whether it is suppliers or vendors in the performing arts industry, these trade partners have brain power that can become an instrumental part of your organization. These partners are a force to wield to make your performing arts organization succeed because they are smart, and they have seen lots of situations over the years.
It becomes easier and easier to shut off from the outside world and run the organization in a certain manner, but if it is not doing as well as you know it has the potential to do, then it might be time to look to the outside to help you mitigate this blind spot. You must remember your organization is a fixed component of experiences.
However, when you bring in trade partners that have experience working with organizations all over the country, it becomes a different experience. These partners have a wealth of resources they can tap into just for you! The resources and experience that they have cultivated can be an important part of your performing arts organization.
Do not let your performing arts organization stagnate in a rapidly evolving world. Work to develop methods to encourage your staff members to be aware of new ideas, and better ways to do things. Ask them to listen to vendors and suppliers with an open mind because they could potentially have the one idea that will make them a hero and help your organization tap into its maximum potential. Good selling!