In 2013, our leadership participated in a program with the Arts & Business Council of Chicago entitled, Business Volunteers for the Arts. The program matches an emerging arts organization with local pro-bono consultants who help co-create strategic plans and processes for the nonprofits they are paired with.
As a nascent organization founded in 2012, the timing was important because it got us thinking bigger picture. Instead of putting our heads down and working harder and harder, it clarified that goals were helpful and that we could put systems in place to get there.
The reality is that most nonprofits don’t have solid business plans or acumen when they get started. They know why they want to put in the work and what causes they want to give their lives too, but the how of it can get lost in the passion for the mission.
Business Volunteers for the Arts is doing the incredible work of getting arts nonprofits in the Chicago area to think critically about the viability and sustainability of their work.
If we can’t sustain the organization through efficient and impactful work, then we won’t be here next year or the year after making significant gains in our mission sector.
As with various inflection points in our organization’s history, we met an important ally during the program that has continued to serve us personally and professionally. One of the consultants we were paired with was a woman named Chevy Williams, who became our dear friend and confidant, and still advises us to this day.
It’s a reminder that connection is key, and that being super open to listen when smart people care enough to speak up is an important posture to retain. We’ve always tried to emphasize the notion that appealing to folks’ ‘experience and expertise’ would put willing collaborators and supporters in the best position to help us achieve results.
The Business Volunteers for the Arts Program helped us do exactly that. And having the experience so early in our organizations history has meant that we have adopted a culture of strategic iteration and efficient implementation that has seen us bring art to every ward in Chicago.
Art nonprofits in Chicago should, quite frankly, be required be part of this program. They produced a 3 year strategic plan, mapping out finances and development. We also implemented some systems for documenting and organizing ourselves, and although everything we came up with hasn’t born itself out, it was so much more about committing to a process of strategic planning that got us realistic about setting organizational goals & achieving them.
We cannot be more thankful to the Arts & Business Council of Chicago and their commitment to the BVA Program & wish them continued success!
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