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Joe Patti over at Butts In The Seats had another great posting the other day (Telling The Story Of Your Overhead.) It was about Furniture Bank’s marketing campaign trying to humanize their overhead costs.

This is a common perception problem that non-profits have—making sure that they are not looked at as overspending on operating costs and not caring about anything else.

I hopped on over to Furniture Bank’s website to check out their Charity Manifesto page and they truly have done a nice job with this.

But this got me thinking about core competencies for non-profit performing arts organizations and how our business, Onstage Publications, or other service providers for that matter, fits into this universe.

You sometimes have to sit back and scratch your head and wonder “what are they thinking?” with some of these performing arts organizations that I call on a daily basis.

Immediately what came to my mind was what some of these organizations might say in this type of campaign that are so resistant to outsourcing their non-core competencies, especially the ones with smaller operating budgets.

“I am Samantha, I am the assistant to the Executive Director, I screen all of his calls, and keep his calendar for him. I truly am overhead!”

I know lots of CEO’s that run multi-million dollar businesses and they don’t even have an executive assistant! But you’d be surprised how many of these organizations I call on and I am screened by their executive assistants.

Or another,

“I am John, I am an extremely expensive web developer, I design and make sure XYZ Theatre’s website is working properly. I truly am overhead!”

 And finally (because this is the business I’m in),

“I Am George, I Am Employed By XYZ Symphony, I Sell Program Book Advertising, And I Truly Am Overhead!

You get the gist of where I’m going with this. Is program book publishing really a core competency of a performing arts organization? Or just add whatever you want into this question that is not the core competency of the particular performing arts organization.

I am not bashing these organizations, the majority of the ones I do call on have their stuff together. But ironically, these better run organizations recognize their core competencies and outsource everything they are not experts at.

Especially in today’s world, where you can jump on the internet and find so many great businesses out there that just concentrate on their core competencies. These businesses do it so well that they are able to offer these services to other businesses (or non-profits) much cheaper than they could ever dream of doing it themselves.

At Onstage Publications we outsource a lot. We even outsource our human resources! We outsource our business accounting as well as our financial forecasting. We’re not ready for a CFO yet, so why would I bring on a full time CFO if I can’t afford it?

Today’s world is great to run a business in because it can be done very cheaply if you recognize what your core competencies are and rely on others to help you with the competencies you’re not very good at.

Obviously there comes a time where you have grown so large that it makes economic sense to start looking at bringing some expertise in-house. But if you have an operating budget of only $1 million dollars, do you really need an executive assistant?

I’d rather see my donation go to the core competency of hearing some great music, or seeing a great play. Good selling!

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