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Doing Too Much

The desire of arts managers and artists to want to do more is important, attractive and draws people to our organizations. Controlling these impulses is vital, however.
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Arts professionals are an inspiring group; they truly believe in what they do and almost always think that doing more of it is better than doing less. They are convinced they can assist their communities by reaching more people, expanding existing programs and creating new and diverse programming strands. In fact, assemble a group of arts professionals together under the umbrella of an arts organization and the richness and diversity of programming ideas will almost always be remarkably impressive.

But many arts organizations do not rein in this explosion of ideas and attempt to do too much. They have never met a program they did not like. They spread their programming and marketing budgets over an ever-growing number of projects.

This is dangerous and can result in:

-- Too many underpowered projects. Arts organizations rarely get credit for mounting an endless number of sub-standard projects. Developing a smaller number of truly astonishing programs is far better for attracting audiences, donors and press attention than producing an agglomeration of thrown together programs. Those projects that are planned over a longer period of time, include exciting and diverse elements and are executed flawlessly are the ones that transform arts organizations.

-- Exhausted staff. When an organization attempts to do too many projects in too short a period of time with too few resources, staff can become drained and depressed. Staff members are typically not excited by volume of work but by quality of work. All arts staffs work hard; the ones who believe the product justifies their investment of time and energy are the ones who are happiest. The ones who feel they are consistently producing work that could have and should have been better are typically dissatisfied.

-- A mismatch between activity levels and income. Since there are so many wonderful arts and entertainment options available to most consumers, ticket buyers will not be attracted to sub-standard programming. Therefore, just because an arts organization increases the number of productions does not guarantee income levels will rise. In fact, the additional expense associated with creating new programming strands will often not be covered by additional box office revenue, especially if marketing budgets are not increased in tandem. Arts organizations that consistently produce the highest quality work are also the ones with the best fiscal results.

-- An inability to attract new, larger donors. These days, virtually every arts organization is trying to increase fundraising revenue by wooing high net worth individuals who may not have supported the organization in the past. But these individuals have the opportunity to experience the very best and will typically not settle for less. Creating a truly strong slate of programs is an essential prerequisite for engaging these individuals and to receiving major donations from them.

The desire of arts managers and artists to want to do more is important, attractive and draws people to our organizations. Controlling these impulses is vital, however. Programming levels must only grow with the organization's ability to do more well.

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