Every Arts Organization Should Have This Key Goal

Image courtesy of Jobtrakr

Image courtesy of Jobtrakr

This article evaluates the work of the National Center for Arts Research, which tries to “determine what constitutes success for an arts group.” I think that’s a worthwhile effort, though of course, and I’m sure the NCAR would agree, it’s really up to the organization to determine its own goals and then try to make them happen.

I dislike the presumption, which comes out in the article, that arts organizations don’t have clear-cut goals and that businesses do. Businesses have a lot of choices for their goals, and they change depending on the circumstances. It could be growth; it could be profit; it could be developing new capabilities to ensure long-term survival; or to prove that a certain market proposition actually makes sense for customers.

In the same way, arts organizations can pick goals, too, but just because “maximum profits” can’t be one of them doesn’t mean they shouldn’t have one. It’s just the same as saying that just because an organization is a nonprofit, it doesn’t have to or shouldn’t or can’t think about money. Of course it should! It’s childish not to think about how your organization is going to use resources (of which money is a key one) to achieve its mission.

One more thought on this is that even though organizations can define success any way they like, I think it’s a big mistake for arts organizations that perform for the public to define them in a way that doesn’t involve the scale and quality of its audience.

In other words, if you’re not reaching people, it’s hard to argue, especially in the live world, that you’re really succeeding. Don’t chicken out! Commit to growing your audience as a key goal.

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