Carving up your nonprofit

I wanted to share an excerpt from great post from Adam Thurmon’s Mission Paradox blog (it’s a long excerpt, so it’s pasted in below).

The question Adam was asked was whether it makes sense to have both an Executive Director and an Artistic Director as equal co-leads of an arts organization.

I’ll leave you to read the excerpt and encourage you to read the post as well.  What strikes me is that Adam is pointing out an important (mis)management theme that can pervade the nonprofit sector: the notion that there’s the “real work” (the art, the programs, the care you provide) and the “business stuff” (raising money, working with the Board, keeping the lights on, marketing :), and that somehow these things can and should be separated out.

It’s not about business taking over nonprofits, it’s about recognizing that any organization that has a purpose in the world needs to be integrated both in how it delivers its services and in how it runs its operations. You can’t chop it up and separate it out any more than that.

In today’s world, your brand is every person who talks to anyone outside your organization; your culture is defined by how you treat each person who works for and with you; your message is owned and nurtured mostly by people who are not on your payroll.

And it’s all the important in mission-driven organizations (artistic, humanitarian, religious, you name it) that every person feels like they are part of advancing that mission.

This is why people are showing up to work every day.

Why would you squander that?

Here’s what Adam has to say about this:

“We still have arts orgs running with the simplistic notion that having artistic decisions over here (run by one person) and business decisions over here (run by another) is the most viable way to structure an organization.

Again, this creates an environment where one side can easily place blame for any challenges the org may be having on the other side . . .

“If we were doing better art we could raise more money.”

“We do great art, too bad the business folks don’t know how to sell it.”

Instead of recognizing what most of us who have been in this game for a while clearly see . . .

Artistic decisions ARE business decis ions.

Business decisions ARE artistic decisions.

You know this.

Everyone knows this.

So why are we taking ultimately singular decisions and placing them in the hands of seperate people?

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