How to Stay Accountable for Your Arts Nonprofit's Success

Growing your arts nonprofit is an ongoing process. Here's how asking the right questions reframes how you got where you are and determining where you are headed.

2 min read

a group of people holding hands on top of a tree
a group of people holding hands on top of a tree

Why didn't our event sell out?

Sounds like a fairly direct way to find and answer, doesn't it?

Here's why it won't give you the insight you're expecting.

Asking Why

When we ask a "why", we are constructing an questions that separate rather than connect. For the example above, asking why an event didn't sell out will give us a list of things that may or may not be attributed to the results.

A few answers could be:

  • Not many people knew about the event

  • Our social media posts were too close to the event date

  • Nobody was interested in this type of event

These look like we could have found a defining factor of our outcome, and it could be that simple! But this type of questions tends to give false positives and can create a circular conversations that drag on.

Asking What

Let's look at the answers we generate if we approach this through questions that connect us directly.

What actions did we take that caused our event not to sellout?

Now the answers that pop into our heads sounds more like:

  • We decided to go ahead with this event 1 week before it happened

  • We scheduled lots of events for this month, including fundraisers

  • We asked people closest to our organization to support this event as a way to increase limited ticket sales

Interesting, right? We now have answers that directly correlate to an action our organization took. These are now all answers that are laid out as facts instead of guesses.

Adding in How

Asking how gets us from defining our actions to planned improvement. How would that look?

Knowing what we did last time, how will be better prepare our event for success?

Depending on the first question you'll be able to generate actionable improvements for your next event and be able to spot potential pitfalls before it's on the schedule.

This is where the change happens and your organization improves over time. One poor showing isn't any cause for overreaction, but it does present a learning moment for you and the organization to set a higher standard of procedure and consistent progress.

Here's a final example.

This person is in town this week, can we put out a performance?

Ideally the answer to this is no for a few reasons:

  • It sets a president for future shows

  • Your audience doesn't have time to react

  • Lack of procedure causes stress in your organization

  • It shows lack of artistic direction if this happens too frequently

There are always circumstances that if the stars align could be granted exception, but they should be just that, exceptions.

Accountability is a group endeavour. Encourage your team to learn from every experience because the workplace is just active education towards a shared goal.

Here's hoping to each new event in your organization is a success and improvement on the last!