The Art of the Turnaround

Michael Kaiser's book The Art of the Turnaround: Creating and Maintaining Healthy Arts Organizations lists 10 basic rules to be followed in every turnaround:

  1. Someone must lead.
  2. The leader must have a plan.
  3. You cannot save your way to health.
  4. Focus on today and tomorrow, not yesterday.
  5. Extend your programming planning calendar.
  6. Marketing is much more than brochures and advertisements.
  7. There must be only one spokesman, and the message must be positive.
  8. Fund raising must focus on the larger donor, but don't aim too high.
  9. The board must allow itself to be restructured.
  10. The organization must have the discipline to follow each of these rules.

There is much wisdom in these steps, but some of Kaiser's strategies may not be appropriate for smaller organizations.  For example, requiring a very substantial minimum contribution from each and every board member may be one way of raising necessary funds quickly for a major symphony, opera, or ballet company (e.g., Alvin Ailey Dance Theater Foundation), but it may be unrealistic for a small organization that has difficulty recruiting and retaining a board appropriately focused on governance.  Certainly, a meaningful contribution should be expected from board members, but a one-size-fits-all minimum contribution amount may result in a sudden exodus of tremendously valuable leaders and no candidates to take their place.