Note: We’re back from a brief hiatus, and have a few exciting things coming down the pipeline, including our co-founder’s secondment to work on a new project sponsored by EmcArts addressing organizational innovation in the arts. The present report is authored by our fabulous summer intern, Michael Ceurvorst, and reflects a brief view of his work with us. Thanks, Michael!

 

In order to help arts organizations like yours, we set out this summer to learn about arts management consultants. Whether or not you are in the market for one, we want to share with you a few key points to consider when you are looking to a hire a consultant to help you with your arts organization.

The Method: We selected 41 firms working in the United States and profiled their general characteristics and specific service offerings. We grouped firms in various ways (for example, by target client) so we could get a sense of who was offering what, and to what extent.

The Results: Our survey suggests that most firms in this field are small (1-3 employees), have balanced service offerings, and employ consultants with some background in arts management, frequently with a master’s degree of some kind. Here are some things to keep in mind as you consider hiring outside assistance:

1. Most firms advertise a short term tactical focus over research and evaluation services

The majority of the firms we researched primarily offer strategy and implementation services, placing less emphasis on research. Nearly 75% of an average firm’s advertised offerings fall under the areas of capacity-building, marketing, or development.  Only 20% of the typical firm’s offerings could be characterized as research and evaluation, and that number is even smaller for firms that specialize in the performing arts.

If you are an arts organization hiring a consultant to help tackle urgent challenges, then you will be faced with many choices. If you are looking for more in-depth research and evaluation services, you may have to dig deeper to find the right fit.

2. Are you looking for development services for your musical organization? 

Music-oriented firms offer a smaller selection of strategic development services than do other types of firms.This is a little surprising, given that many music organizations have to raise significant funds–often more than 50% of their annual budget–to cover expenses. Perhaps not surprisingly, we found more instances of music organizations hiring dedicated fundraising firms than arts-specific consultants. As you start to plan your fundraising strategy, consider what your  goal is and who is best positioned to help you achieve it.

3. Still looking? For each firm you see, another 10 are out of sight.

You’ll have no trouble finding an arts management consultant in an internet search. In fact, as this field is characterized by many small firms, you may be overwhelmed with options.However, only 25% of firms maintain an active social networking presence or blog.Four consultants in our sample do not even maintain a professional website. If you’re scanning the Internet for options, you may want to supplement your search by checking professional association listings, and you may need to dig deeper than professional websites to ensure the right fit. And don’t forget to ask your peer organizations who they would recommend.

4. Final thoughts as you search for the right consultant

As you know, identifying and reaching your audience is one of the most challenging things you do every day. Finding the right consultant can be just as challenging, and just as important. When you start to search for outside help, be certain about the needs of your organization and the potential value offered by an outside expert. If consultants wish to provide innovative but sustainable solutions, they must ground and substantiate their recommendations in research.

So, based on your experiences, what do you think consultants could do better in order to meet the needs of your arts organizations?

Michael Ceurvorst is an emerging composer whose mission is to help build community around live arts. He is currently pursuing a master of music composition at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh. He finds balance and synergy between localized work as a composer and organizer on the one hand, and engaging questions about policy and management strategies on the other. This past summer, as an intern with Symphony Bros, he designed and executed research projects to support internal business strategy.

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