During the last few weeks of complete radio silence on this blog, I’ve been getting my brain wrapped around my new position as Managing Director at The American Shakespeare Center in Staunton, VA. Thank you all for your patience with me!
Just because I haven’t been writing doesn’t mean I haven’t been thinking and tweeting (@amywratchford) about all the issues and opportunities around our industry. One thing that has been top-of-mind for me lately is the general lack of General Operating Support (GOS) in our industry. I’ve heard over and over from theatres and arts organizations that GOS is what they need, and I know the funders are hearing it too. And yet we continue to see a preponderance of project funding and a scarcity of GOS. This has gotten to the point where projects are specifically created in order to attract funding, even when basic financial needs of the company are not being met. We, as an industry, tend to shake our fists and rage against out-of-touch funders who won’t recognize what would truly help us be sustainable. I, however, think we only have ourselves to blame.
We have trained the foundations and major donors to give us project-based support. In fact, we’ve trained them on multiple levels:
- A consistent inability to talk about why we matter outside of the impact of specific projects
- A consistent approach to documentation, especially financial documentation, of only sending what they ask for and then only in the broadest possible terms
- Avoidance of explanations of how stable (or not) we are as organizations and what we are doing to make ourselves better (I mean this from a fiscal as well as an organizational/managerial standpoint)
- A general lack of drilling down to details about who our audience is, how we will reach them, and how we expect to impact them
- Avoidance of long-term strategic planning (which would make fixing the two bullets immediately preceding actually feasible)
If we want General Operating Support, we must be generally and specifically accountable for where we are and where we are going. Only then can we begin to ease the terror that funders feel when thinking about donating large sums of money to which no specific project tied. Once we get our ducks in a row then, and only then, can we begin to petition for GOS in earnest.
As always, I’d love to know your thoughts!