Now on to the opportunities. Finding these lovely gems is often random. We must train ourselves to recognize them, for they are not necessarily sitting beneath a neon sign. Usually they are more like truffles, hiding under certain trees and available only under certain conditions.
Once we figure out how to recognize opportunities, the next step (very important!) is to learn how to maximize them. This step will involve both courage and creativity. You may have to take a calculated risk. So many people mishandle or outright squander golden opportunities because they lack the vision, the foresight and the guts to play a good hand for all it’s worth.
While you’re hanging out and doing business as usual, it is vital to always be on the lookout for the gems. It is likewise vital to prepare your organization to receive them, because fortune favors the prepared. So what might that entail?
As we all know, it usually takes money to make money. So ideally, have at least a modest cash or credit reserve on hand that will allow you to pay an expense related to serendipitous good fortune. As always, network to cultivate and maintain good relationships, since who you know (and who knows you) is essential to the process.
The arts organization of which I spoke last week will hold a big splashy event in September 2010. They will repeat the template of an event that was done in 2005, with great success. Despite the weakened economy, I feel confident that the September event is a good opportunity that will both make new friends for the organization and bring in $10,000 + in revenue.
Then there is the other opportunity, one that was brought to us by our board chairwoman. She told us of a charming documentary film made in 2008 that tells the story of a NYC postal worker and his librarian wife who built a world class art collection on their very limited budget. The board chair proposed that we show the film in Spring 2010 to act as a lead-in to our September event. The event would be free, to reward current supporters and attract new prospects. The board loved it and I took the lead on finding a venue, preferably free or cheap.
On a whim, I emailed an acquaintance who is a former trustee at a local museum. Would they donate space to a small nonprofit? She agreed to make a call on my behalf and give me a contact name. To my great delight, I obtained donated screening space and, the sweetest gift of all, a museum curator to both introduce the film and do a Q & A session at the end. Hot damn, I hit the jackpot!!
Alas, there was a little catch. We must pony up for a few related costs: projectionist fee, ushers, security, clean-up crew, etc. To accept this offer, the organization must pay about $1400.
I emailed the board chair and gave her the good news / bad news scenario. What to do, I lamented? Perhaps I should keep looking. She agreed. But when the sun rose again, I caught myself. I emailed the board chair and told her that we must accept this game changing offer. It was much too good to refuse.
However, all this transpired before news of the $60,000 hole in the bankbook was revealed. Our chairwoman went from being cautiously positive to near total opposition. I understood her fear, but knew that we could not succumb to it. The ED (who I feel concealed our money woes and exacerbated our problem) was totally negative—but he is always a wet blanket!
Especially in light of the cash crunch, the organization needs to quickly raise its profile to both energize current donors and attract new and bigger check writers. To show the film in a venue that is merely serviceable adds no value. Our golden opportunity would be squandered due to shortsightedness and fear.
Halleluia, I am thrilled to report that the board gave the museum proposal a ringing endorsement. One person even recommended that we go farther out on a limb, as he phrased it, and host a small pre-film reception. The board voted to spend $5000 on the event. The board chair gave her blessing and the ED came around. Hurrah!!
The lesson of this tale is no doubt obvious to you, dear Reader. Practicality and caution are useful traits; but one must not allow them to morh into fear and paralysis. As steward of the business, one must develop both the acumen to recognize opportunities worth pursuing and the courage to utilize same. We must understand not only what we can afford to do, but also what we cannot afford to NOT do. We’ve got to man up and lead!
Thanks for reading,