Arts nonprofits are often lean and scrappy, running on tight budgets with limited staff, but a big vision. And when that’s the case, you absolutely must make sure everything you do makes an impact and no time or resources are wasted.
To release what can be pressure-cooker-like stress, the following 2 Tips tailored for arts nonprofits will show you how developing infrastructure can literally set you free (and save your soul rather than eat it up).
Remember that you’re not in the business of reinventing wheels; instead, your focused on creating, and creating access to, the arts. Implement tools, practices, and structures that already exist.
Don’t skip the “boring”, non-artsy stuff because freedom to enjoy the artsy stuff is on the other side of reliable, stable infrastructure. Every time you get a good night’s rest, you can accomplish more and show-up more present the next day; every time you solidify a component of the organizational infrastructure, you can accomplish more and show-up more present for the organizational mission.
How to Get Started with Tip 1
There are lots of amazing arts organizations out there with track records of success. When your nonprofit needs to implement a program (or ensure an existing one is actually doing what it’s supposed to), don’t reinvent the wheel. Instead, know where to look for best practices and proven models that you can use in your own programs.
Where to Look:
- NEA! These folks have an entire section of their website devoted to this! Go to site and have a look around.
- A Grantmaker! Funders often have model grants on their website and are typically happy to chat with you if you call them and ask for example grant applications.
- Other successful arts orgs! If you see or know of an organization which is successful at running a program similar to yours, call them! They may be willing to share details of how they make it work. Buy the program leadership a coffee and pick their brain.
How to Get Started with Tip 2
In many nonprofits, staff are overworked, wear lots of different hats, and sometimes that can become a reason that there isn’t enough time to develop practices and tools for hiring, onboarding, marketing, website maintenance, professional development, fundraising, safety practices, accountability, etc. (i.e. the “boring” stuff).
But the boring stuff, once in place, is what makes every single thing you do easier!!! Infrastructure, once in place, can maintain itself for long stretches of time! Voila – you are free!
Where to Look:
- Policies & Procedures! Policies & Procedures keep you from wasting time wondering what to do when an unusual situation arises, make it quicker and easier to train people, & ensure work quality will be more consistent.
Pro Tip: Try videoing or screen recording tasks instead of writing them!
- Filing Systems! Having a well-organized filing system can save you precious time digging around for files you need. My suggestion is to get a lockable filing cabinet and organize it either alphabetically or by task so all your hard copies have somewhere to live.Pro Tip: try using Google’s G Suite Drive to organize all digital files in the cloud (hint: it’s free for nonprofits).
- Automation Tools! Look for tasks that can be automated so you can free up space in your daily to-do list. For this, I use a lot of electronic tools to make my life easier, including:
- Google Forms (collect survey data from patrons)
- HootSuite (collect data and metrics on audience engagement across social media platforms and it also schedules your social media posts)
- Zapier (links up different apps and websites to automate tasks that were once manual. For example, it can take the data from a Google Form you set up to collect feedback on patron’s experiences at your facility and input that data into a spreadsheet you can use for grant reporting).
If you take the time up front to look for models you can copy, implement supposedly “boring” pieces of infrastructure, and automate tedious tasks, you’ll be amazed at how much time you can free up in your week and in your fabulous, artsy heart and mind! And that means you can get back to all the arts you love and fulfill your mission.
Why did we develop 2 Tips videos?
We know that many professionals and organizational leaders do not have the funds to partner with specialists (like us) and/or the time to strategize on what might seem like extra projects.
We launched these 2 Tips videos to support you with making tweaks, adjustments, and refinements in programs and operations — doable for busy professionals like you!