Arts and Cultural Organizational Management

Arts and Cultural Organizational ManagementPeople who know me know I’m a proverbial learner. I’ve been involved with art organizations and non-profits for years. I heard from our Executive Director about a certified course being offered by the University of Maryland (I’m on the board of my local city museum), it sounded interesting so I took the shot. I figured this course called, Arts and Cultural Organizational Management The Cycle would help me better understand non-profits and with my web marketing consulting at Slocum Studio since we help so many artists and non profits.

One of the interesting points that Michael M. Kaiser (author of The Cycle A Practical Approach to Managing Arts Organizations, co author Brett E. Egan -available for purchase through online sellers as well as through the publisher, University Press of New England) makes, is how sports teams do a superb job of making a compelling product, marketing both the games themselves but also the team as a whole to fans, and making fans feel pat of the effort. Just as Brady, and Mr.Craft repeatedly said at the recent super bowl win. Sorry I’m about 25 minutes from Foxboro home of the Patriots. But to the point, no matter what team you support you do feel a part of the organization. What if your organization had such passionate fans?

The Cycle breaks down art organizational management into 4 categories.


Arts and Cultural Organizational ManagementThe Cycle can be useful in a variety of organizations I think, not confined to just art.

Produce Great Art, don’t sacrifice quality. This is a point they really drill home.

The marketing is broken down into two categories. Programming and Institutional marketing, makes so much sense!

Great art, and marketing produce great interest, from family, this means your organizations family. Which consists of board members, staff, membership, sponsors, friends and family.

DeVos Institute of Arts Management at the University of Maryland point out that the cycle is not only helpful for performing and presenting organizations, but also for arts schools, nonprofits and service organizations including advocacy organizations, historical societies, ministries and much much more.

The Product and Bold, exciting programming

The last thing you should cut back on is the quality of your product, don’t dumb it down or take short cuts. Great art, like a great program seen by one hundred or one thousand viewers can leave a lasting impression about your organization. I believe there is residual brand value when it comes to past performances or galleries viewed by patrons. Of course no organization wants to go for broke setting up a show that isn’t going to be well attended- and organizations survival relies on quality programing.

Big productions need to be planned way in advance, in Michaels book he details that mid to large organizations should have a five year plan the 3rd year on can be adjustable programming. When you think about it, asking potential donors to support your organization and having a variety of products to show them makes sense. If your showing them this years schedule and they don’t see what they like but next year they see something that aligns with their mission you may find yourself with a supported program. Planning increases your organizations chances of getting funding.

Programmatic Marketing

This is the selling of tickets, educational programs, lectures, exhibitions etc. How you do this is through traditional means as in print, direct mail; web marketing, social media etc. Effective programmatic marketing can develop a good long term relationship with the buyer. Good marketing can also help drive demand to purchase. Knowing who to market which program to is important- your not going to market to a millennium a show or exhibit that appeals to a baby boomer. Unless of course there is appeal to both audiences. It’s important to research each program to determine it’s potential buyer.

Institutional Marketing

Institutional marketing uses all your organizations assets: Buildings, collections, tours, party at a special home etc. This is of course to influence potential buyers to buy tickets and make donations to the organization. Who are the buyers? Audiences, members, donors, board members, collaborators, presenters or exhibitors, volunteers and staff. This is no small feat, it takes time planning and follow up and big ideas!

Growing and involving the family

Producing a great product, backed by bold aggressive marketing the number of people who will want to support your organization will grow naturally. This base of subscribers, members, ticket – buyers and donors will provide a healthy earned income over time. Your family will grow one by one, week by week and month by month. Managers understand that keeping this base interested and energized is important. Lastly managers should do their upmost to engage their board members, these members are the heart, the center of the family. Their not only the organizations primary volunteers but the can offer their talent and money not to mention connections within the community.


Effective fundraising involves each family member and provides them with a financial structure, and organizational roadmap, long term artistic plans, marketing assets and gets them enthusiastic wanting to  promote programs that they feel connected to. Effective fundraisers appeal differently to donors, its important to reach these different mentalities.  Working with the cycle, understanding its each component and leveraging your institutional marketing will help you avoid a much more pressured hard line sales environment whereby board members pressure family, friends and associates to support underfunded programs.

Final Points

Managing a non-profit today is a tough business. Wages, insurances, facility repairs, and taxes are all on the rise while our seating, and gallery display areas are fixed. This forces many organizations to raise program ticket prices and memberships, thereby causing many members of the community from being shut out. We’re forced to be more creative, and  much more efficient. I encourage you to purchase the book-The Cycle A Practical Approach to Managing Arts Organizations and develop your long term plans.

Let me know if I can help you with your organization. Please fill out the form below, and thanks for reading my post!

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