Grantee Gathering 2017

When we asked: "What is the single most important lesson you have learned from capacity building?", participants had a wide range of answers. Curiosity, criticality, and open communication were the major themes.

Lessons Learned. Lessons Shared. (GIF by studiothread)

Lessons Learned. Lessons Shared.

Emily Reusswig, Executive Director Chicago Cultural Alliance talked about stewarding physical change in an organization.

  • Use your mission statement to rally your staff and board. Make sure it's simple and focused.
  • Remember to share good news with your board - it energizes them.
  • Try sharing budget narratives for folks who can't look past the numbers to form the questions that need to be asked.

Virginia Nugent, Executive Director, The Actors Gymnasium talked about how Arts Work Fund has been a critical partner in the growth of the organization. The Actors Gymnasium has transformed from a founder-lead organization in 2008 to a professionally managed group with a budget that has surpassed AWF grant eligibility (a good thing!).

  • Stick to processes that are full of integrity - even if it takes a long time.
  • Deep dives can help launch new programs and bring the conversation back to why your organization exists.
Carrie Hanson, Founding Artistic Director, The Seldoms, and Bob Faust, Creative Director, Faust Ltd. discussed how savvy marketing can result in new content. Through an AWF-funded Artful Marketing Initiative, open-ended installations and public interventions were created to extend the themes in their production, Rock Citizen.

Rock Citizen Street Promotion

Ellyzabeth Adler, Founder of Chicago Danztheatre Ensemble shared how a strategic planning process helped the organization learn to tell its story and resulted in shared ownership over what's being created.
  • Own your story.
  • Don't get caught in the "spider web of doing."

Jeffreen M. Hayes, Executive Director of Threewalls shared her experience of leading the organization through a recent major transformation from a brick-and-mortar gallery to an itinerant project supporting artists throughout Chicago.

Kim Goldman,  Managing Director, and Laura Flamion, Volunteer of Lucky Plush provided an update on their Idea Lab funded project, Volunteer Cultivation Lab. Lucky Plush is creating a model fellowship program that cultivates and manages professional and student volunteers, creating an effective administrative support system that solves the chronic revolving door of un-managed interns within small nonprofits.

When it comes to capacity building, there's no one-size-fits all solution. Though our organizations are all unique, Arts Work Fund believes that by sharing lessons and experiences, we can strengthen Chicago's cultural landscape.

Presentation happening at the AWF Grantee GatheringPeople in conversation at the AWF Grantee GatheringPeople in conversation at the AWF Grantee GatheringAnimation of hand-written answers to the question: What is the single most important lesson you have learned from capacity building?

The Arts Work Fund invests in the financial sustainability, management, governance and growth capacities of small arts and cultural organizations located in the Chicago metropolitan region.

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