Empowering Arts Organizations in an Information Age

ANNA MATHEW, Knowledge Associate, Young Associates |

Technically, I’m a librarian. So why have I joined Arts Consultants Canada?

Well, I work for Young Associates, a team of consultants working primarily with arts organizations in a variety of areas, most significantly financial and data management. I believe the field of library science – now more frequently referred to as information science, information studies, or even just ‘information’, has broad applications to sectors beyond the public, academic, school, and traditional corporate (e.g. legal and medical) settings to which we are accustomed. The information specialist is no longer restricted to within the library walls and now frequently finds him/herself in an embedded role within an organization which has a non-information related mandate but needs someone to perform information retrieval and information management duties to support that mandate. What I’m saying is, in our ‘information age’, a librarian can find him or herself working anywhere.

It’s no surprise that we don’t come across too many arts organizations who can afford to keep a permanent, embedded information specialist on staff. Sure, some of the larger organizations have a researcher or two, but for the most part, arts organizations have too much administrative overload and too many budget constraints to deal with to consider creating a formalized role for an information manager. Enter the arts consultant.

In the Spring 2014 ACCA newsletter, my Young Associates colleague Samantha Zimmerman wrote about how consultants can play a leadership role in getting arts organizations to consider their statistical data as ‘SMART’ data, and to set goals and put systems in place to make data part of a larger picture in preserving and communicating an organization’s story. That sentiment is echoed by Negin Zebarjad, a consultant at Nordicity, a consulting firm that earlier this month hosted a panel for Artscape Launchpad on “The Power of Data on Communicating Your Impact”. Zebarjad focuses on good design and clear goal-setting, and emphasizes that arts organizations need to become aware of what data they are already collecting and think about how it can be threaded into the narrative they want to tell about themselves. During the panel, representatives from major funding bodies stressed the importance of seeing a balance of qualitative and quantitative information from organizations when assessing impact. Smartly organized data – which is collected, preserved, analysed, and presented according to well-designed systems and in support of clearly articulated goals – makes that qualitative-quantitative balance possible; this is becoming more relevant as CADAC is looking for correlations between the financial and the statistical data they receive.

The information specialist’s role in consulting with arts organizations goes beyond accessing and manipulating a client’s database. We can offer arts organizations assistance in understanding how information moves through their organizational ecosystems and how it is affected by software, hardware, and, most importantly, people. By undertaking strategic exercises like organizational data flow visualizations and goal setting, and hands on activities like database design and cleanup, we can increase efficiency and strengthen identity.

A favourite instructor at the University of Toronto’s iSchool said: “A librarian helps people find stuff”. (Full disclosure, he might not have used the word ‘stuff’). Another memorable instructor put forth a ‘cocktail party’ definition for the term information architect (a kind of information specialist) as someone who: “is supposed to make sure that people can find what they’re looking for without getting lost or confused.”

Arts consultants armed with information skills can do both those things by helping organizations become information literate and empowering their stakeholders to use that information to operate efficiently, to advance their mandates, and to extend their reach.

International Newsletters on Arts & Culture Policy and Management

Arts Management Newsletter
The Resource Alliance newsletter
Cyberkaris Newsletter, Interarts Barcelona
ACCORNS, International Federation of Arts Councils and Culture Agencies (IFACCA)
Culture 360 newsletter, ACEF
European Cultural Foundation
ArtFactories newsletter
C-News CultureLink
On-the-move Cultural Mobility and Information Network newsletter
Innovation Excellence weekly newsletter
OCPA Observatory of Cultural Policies in Africa News
Memo, Budapest Observatory on Financing Culture in East-Central Europe
Visiting Arts UK Newsletter

ACCA Programming Committee Panel – Managing Up, Down and Across: Coaching and Mentoring Skills for Arts Managers

JERRY SMITH, Co-Chair, ACCA Programming Committee | 

In response to queries from the ACCA membership, ACCA’s Programming Committee recently delivered a professional development panel for the Greater Toronto Hamilton region members (current and potential), October 8, 2014, at the Deer Park Library in Toronto. For many of us working in the sector – whether new to the job, mid career or senior managers – some form of personal development is often the road to sanity; however, which role fits best: guide, mentor, mentee, facilitator, coach, learner, peer?

What was clear from the members of this panel was, “One size does not fit all!” (Can you imagine a visual artist looking at a palette that offered a single colour?)  Work in Culture Executive Director Diane Davy shared the experience of working with a variety of mentoring programs and the benefits they offer for busy working professionals who want very specific input, need to expand their network, and recognize the importance that mentors serve as sounding boards and facilitators, not just an all knowing expert.

The Metcalf Foundation has been a leader in contributing to our understanding of the costs and benefits of mentorship, and Cathy Smalley explored some of the key lessons learned (and shared copies of their report.)

Carrie Brooks-Joiner, project facilitator on CCCO’s Peer Learning Circle Project (2009-12), drew on this action research to outline the experience provided by a peer support structure for different groups, including Emerging Professionals, Curators/Programmers, Managers/Leaders, and Artist/Creators.

Not only did the panel present core insights from their research and practice, but they responded to the facilitator Anne Frost, Program Director of Humber College’s revitalized post diploma certificate program in arts management, to several mini-cases, as well as questions from the audience.

Partnerships: People, Purpose, Possibility, Process, and Product

PAUL GRAVETT, Paul Gravett Consulting | 

I am not given to making predictions, but I have long believed that partnerships will be a hallmark of nonprofit arts organizations that survive in the future. As resources of all kinds become more scarce, collaborations with other nonprofit organizations (either in the arts or cross-sector), corporations and governmental agencies will become even more necessary than they are already.

While many arts collaborations are often borne out of scarcity, they tend to begin and end with the product: the co-production or co-presentation.This may serve an immediate and obvious need, but partnerships have the probability of offering much greater potential, value and benefit when they are founded on a deeper understanding and commitment.

This may serve an immediate and obvious need, but partnerships have the probability of offering much greater potential, value and benefit when they are founded on a deeper understanding and commitment.

To achieve this, we must approach partnerships with a different outlook. We must consider what we are giving, and stop thinking about taking. We must focus on the strengths we contribute, and not the weaknesses we wish to fill.

And, we must understand that partnerships are more than the end goal: the deal.Deeper partnerships are founded on people, purpose, possibility, process and product.

Deeper partnerships are founded on people, purpose, possibility, process and product.


We may say companies enter into partnerships, but it is people who make them work. It is their desire to share expertise and resources, and to be open to exploration and understanding.

In coming together, the participants demonstrate leadership for the whole and a willingness to ‘own’ the partnership. It is their conviction that the whole is much greater than the sum of the parts.


The purpose is to understand the why of the partnership: to share resources; to increase economies of scale; to launch a new production. Each party will naturally want to focus on their own goals and needs, but the deeper partnership will consider the collective goals.


This is where the partners consider the multiple ways in which they will contribute to the partnership: the level of their responsibilities, and the range of their investments, and degree of their risk. This is their ‘skin in the game’ commitment.


Strategy, planning, and measurements are important, as are qualities of transparency, adaptability and nimbleness. Because we start with people, communications are key, as are collective listening, understanding and appreciation.

Just as there will be shared responsibilities, there needs to be shared credit as well. This is the ability to think beyond oneself and consider the larger context. This is trust.


The product is, of course, what likely brought the partners together. But by developing a deeper partnership founded on people, purpose, possibilities, and process, the product will have much greater meaning and lasting richness.


As resources become scarcer, partnerships will likely define those nonprofit arts organizations that survive in the future. Partnerships have the ability to serve the immediate and obvious need. Partnerships, approached with a different mindset and fuller commitment, also have the ability to offer the partners much greater meaning and lasting richness. More than just the end goal, the deepest partnerships are the sum of people, purpose, possibility, process and product.

Inspiration and further reading:

Fostering Collaboration Through Common Language (link)
Strategic Alliances (link)
Essential Mindset Shifts For Collective Impact (link) 

Managing Up, Down and Across: Coaching and Mentoring Skills for Arts Managers

Wednesday, October 8, 2014
3:00 – 5:00 PM (new time)
Location: Deer Park Library, 40 St. Clair Ave. East, Toronto

The Arts and Cultural Sector is on the cusp of a major shift in its leadership, as is the entire Canadian economy, with Boomers retiring at an increasingly high rate. To help smooth out a potentially bumpy ride, as a sector, more and more of us will be required to become better and better in that “guide on the side” role, easing the next generation of leaders into their place.

Join long standing ACCA members and supporters as they share with you their insights, experiences and advice as we explore the advantages of coaching and mentoring, and bring some clarity to the differing roles of each.

All four panellists and the facilitator have lived in the world of learning and training – passing on skills, supporting best practises – and speak with a collective voice of experience.

  • Pat Bradley, currently the OAC’s Theatre Officer, and manager of the Council’s Compass Program, has managed staff – and clients – at the provincial and municipal level; she teaches in the MBA program at York (Schulich School of Business), of which she is a graduate.
  • Also with experience in teaching cultural management as well as a frequent conference speaker, Carrie Brooks-Joiner is owner and principal of Carrie Brooks-Joiner & Associates, a firm that specializes in supporting the leadership and managements of not-for-profit organizations.
  • Although Diane Davy has over 25 years of senior management experience in the creative and cultural industries, she is currently part-time Executive Director for WorkInCulture (Cultural Careers Council of Ontario, and its mission “to support the people who work in the cultural sector through life-long career development and business skills training.” and mandate, “At WorkInCulture we Connect, Create, and Curate training and tools that help arts and culture professionals develop the business skills to match their creative talents.”)
  • Although Cathy Smalley has led Arts Service Organizations at the municipal, provincial and federal levels, she’s active today as an independent consultant in the sector; recent contracts have included the Performing Arts Alliance (Exploring collaboration in professional and leadership development) and the Metcalf Foundation (“Places Please,” a report on 11 years of arts internships at Metcalf).
  • T. Anne Frost, Program Manager of Humber College’s recently re-launched one year post-diploma certificate program in Arts Administration, will have her hands full facilitating this panel.
ACCA Members – $35 | Non-members – $50

Register Online

DATA SMART: More Than “Show me the Money.”

SAMANTHA ZIMMERMAN, Practice Manager, Young AssociatesSamantha@youngassociates.ca |

We’ve all heard about data: the importance of data; the need to keep data safe; the value of turning raw data into actionable information.  But what does it mean for our clients? Most organizations are already comfortable making strategic decisions based on their financial data, because GAAP provides guidelines for maintaining financial data so that it is viewed as SMART (Specific, Measureable, Attainable, Realistic, Timely); but what about our statistical data? Not only is there no one set of rules for dealing with statistical data, there are also privacy laws that dictate how we must collect, store and use data. It can all be very overwhelming.

The arts sector must also conform to CADAC which requires our clients to analyze and report their statistical and financial data to Government funders. CADAC and its partner funders across the country are becoming more rigorous and demanding in reconciling and verifying statistical data, which makes it even more important for organizations to properly track the necessary data required for CADAC reporting. More and more, clients have been reaching out to Young Associates in search of either full service data entry and processing, or targeted data management support with assistance in collecting data, pulling and reviewing periodic reports (monthly, annual), and reconciliation with bookkeeping software, as well as staff training or prospect research.

There is so much potential for data collection, but the majority of small and mid-size not-for-profit organizations often lack the human resources, the technology/software packages or the time to deal with all the data. We’ve all seen those organizations that are tracking their donations, event attendance and other lists in Excel spreadsheets. Much of the data stored in these Excel spreadsheets lives independently from other organizational data, and many of the lists lack standardization in the collection and presentation of the data.

While most of us are using Excel adequately, the majority will never use it to its full potential. Generally it’s seen as a tool for tracking static data; a moment in time, an individual project, or small pieces of information from a single cycle. How many years has a patron attended that event? How many donors are attending our events as well, and vice versa, are program participants returning as supporters? Young Associates has developed a proven system for helping organizations determine their data goals, and develop systems that work within the means of the organization to collect and analyze the data that gives the true picture. Where the mindset needs to change is not thinking of those Excel spreadsheets as a moment in time, but as a piece of a larger picture. Just as the financial information of the organization tells a story, the statistical data of an organization also has a story to tell.

Coaching vs. Consulting

JAY KATZ is an Arts Consultant and Executive Coach, who is a former board member of ACCA |

Arts Consultants have long been offering their services to help Arts organizations in their management and planning. In recent years, a different form of consulting has become available to Arts organizations – that of Coaching. Many Arts consultants already engage in coaching activities as part of their consulting work. However, following on the growth of coaching as a tool for developing and supporting managers and leaders in the private sector, more and more arts organizations are now hiring coaches, independent of other consulting projects. This can be demonstrated by the Ontario Arts Council’s recent inclusion of Coaching among the types of consulting projects for which it provides support through grants.

The growing popularity of coaching can be attributed to the experience of its benefits. Two of the more widely quoted studies on coaching in the private sector have cited demonstrable improvements in organizations which used coaching:

Birkeland, et al (1997) and Davis and Petchnik (1998) studied the impact of coaching on executives at Amoco Corporation (now part of British Petroleum) over a ten year period. They found that coached executives whose compensation was based on performance had 50% higher raises than colleagues who weren’t receiving coaching.

In the February 19, 2001 issue of Fortune Magazine, Anne Fisher cited a study of the return on investment from coaching. Executives from Fortune 1,000 companies who had been coached between six and twelve months, described an average return of $100,000 from their improved performances as a result of coaching, which was approximately six times the average cost of the coaching provided.

These studies are part of a large body of research which defines and measures the benefits to organizations who hire coaches for their managers and executives. In addition to the widely accepted benefits of coaching, there are also particular benefit for arts organizations.

Why Coach Arts Managers?
Coaching is proven to benefit the organizations in all industries whose managers and executives have been coached. Aside from that, there are circumstances that are specific to the Arts, which invite coaching opportunities. Many Arts managers are artists or creators who have taken on administrative responsibilities out of necessity. Many prove to be quite adept managers, though this lack of formal management training reveals an opportunity to expand and fortify administrators’ “management toolkits”.

Arts administrators also often work under generally stressful circumstances. As we know, working long hours, stretching inadequate resources and wearing many management hats simultaneously, are routine for many Arts managers, across all disciplines. Arts managers are frequently required to be adept at both creative “right-brain” competencies and logical “left-brain” competencies. CEOs in the Arts typically report to a board of part-time volunteers. All of these circumstances lend themselves well to benefit from coaching.

Coaching and Consulting – A Comparison
Both Coaching and Consulting help build clients’ capacities by sharing insights and expertise. Beyond that are other similarities and differences, summarized in this table:





Capacity Building

  • Builds capacity through recommendations and plans delivered to an entire organization or group, at the end of a process.
  • Builds capacity of individual managers or groups, which in turn builds the capacities of the organizations where they work.




  • Consultants work with clients to address an explicit situation, and then the clients enact specific plans or recommendations.
  • Usually for the benefit of a group or whole organization.
  • Coaches work in private with clients to address improvement on specific areas or of general competency.
  • Usually focused on one manager/ executive at a time, though it also works with groups.


  • Generally 1 to 6 months
  • Generally 3 to 12 months




Services Provided

  • Provide expertise and insight not available internally.
  • Leave the organization with enhanced capacity.
  • Identify practices/ policies that improve clients’ effectiveness.
  • Provide expertise and insight not available individually.
  • Leave the client (and by transference, their organization) with enhanced capacity.
  • Identify and entrench practices/ policies that improve clients’ effectiveness.
  • Can bridge the competency gap   between planning and implementation, where many organizations stumble.





  • Clients do not always have sufficient resources/expertise to successfully act on consultants’ plans and recommendations.
  • Consultants are typically not involved in implementation.
  • Other factors that lay outside the scope of the specific consulting project can hamper its success.
  • Clients who have severe behavioural problems, have fundamentally different values from their organization or have an inability to examine or adapt their practices do not usually respond to coaching.


Frequency of Client Contact

  • Limited to the specific tasks in the contract, with intermittent additional contact for communications and information gathering purposes.
  • Regularly and frequently occurring throughout the period of the contract, with further intermittent contact as needed.

CASE STUDY: Greater Sudbury’s Théâtre du Nouvel-Ontario: An Innovative Leader in Audience Development

Denis J. Bertrand, Audience Development Expert for the Arts and 50 Carleton Associate |

The Théâtre du Nouvel-Ontario (TNO) is Greater Sudbury’s 42-year old French-language professional theatre company. It presents new Franco-Ontarian, French-Canadian and Canadian works. In 2005, Geneviève Pineault, its new Artistic Director, noticed that TNO season subscriptions were down, as well as its overall attendance. She felt that more people should be interested in the TNO’s offering and, as such, enjoy greater support. After all, the company had a rich history and many of its productions and associated artists had won prestigious national awards throughout the years. TNO productions toured the country and even went to Europe. So why weren’t there more local subscribers?

To remedy the problem, Pineault called upon 50 Carleton, a Sudbury-based marketing firm, to develop a new brand and communications plan. As a result, the TNO undertook new audience development strategies that have paid off ever since.

The first step the company took to reach new consumers was to target individuals and groups most likely to be interested in its product instead of trying to reach the local francophone community as a whole.  These potential audience members were identified through their shared professional, personal or civic interests with the TNO. The organization also invited its loyal patrons to spread the word about the TNO to like-minded individuals in their entourage who were familiar in some way with the company or interested in the arts, but who didn’t subscribe to the TNO’s seasons or attend its performances regularly. Those loyal patrons became the organization’s ambassadors in the community. TNO Board members were asked to recruit four new subscribers each annually. Aided by a marketing campaign that presented live theatre as an accessible and more interesting alternative to “boring” television programs, attendance at the TNO went up by 19% as early as the following season.         

The TNO continued to innovate by becoming one of the first francophone arts organizations in Canada to use a nascent social media called Facebook to promote its activities. It even started its own blog to give detailed information on its events and programming.

The theatrical experience provided by the TNO to its patrons wasn’t confined to the stage. As soon as theatre lovers walked through its doors, they were immersed in the universe of that evening’s performance through the use of thematic music, drinks, food and embellishments to its foyer. Pineault is almost always on hand, every night, to personally welcome her guests. On one memorable occasion, TNO staff members handed out cretons sandwiches to departing patrons because the food item was featured in that evening’s play. Although used only sparingly, such post-performance handouts act as reminders of the good time patrons experience when the go to the TNO. Now, spectators look forward to what the company has in store for them when a new production opens.

More recently, the TNO created a Web site to introduce children, their parents and teachers to theatre. Called Oh ! Théâtre, the site features games and information on what to expect when you attend a play.

The company has also reached out to smaller francophone communities located within a 100 km radius of Greater Sudbury to encourage them to attend its performances. Micro season launches have been held in targeted communities and the TNO has initiated 2 p.m. matinees on Saturdays, so patrons coming from within or outside of the radius have time to travel, shop, dine and take in the sites while attending a performance in Sudbury.     

During the spring of 2011 and the following 2011-2012 season, the TNO introduced English-language supertitles for some of the plays featured in its adult series so that English-speaking patrons could discover and enjoy French-language theatre. The company is now developing a whole new market and has garnered a great deal of attention by doing so.

All of these initiatives are but an overview of what the TNO has undertaken to reach new audiences and ensure patron loyalty. And as mentioned, it has paid off. Attendance and subscriptions to the TNO have increased by 98% from 2006-2007 to 2012-2013.  The TNO welcomed some 300 new spectators over a three-year period (2009-2012). With season attendance rates averaging around 95% over the last few years, the TNO added additional performances to its adult series in 2011-2012 and was still able to maintain its 95% average in 2012-2013. Thirty-two per cent (32%) of season subscriptions were sold last year to first-time buyers. Meanwhile, 98% of audience members thought that the 2012-2013 season was either excellent or very good.

To obtain such results, the TNO has maintained some traditional marketing (media advertising, posters, etc.) and embraced social and viral marketing by communicating directly with potential customers. It has targeted specific people, groups and communities by talking to them, by offering them a full experience when they set foot in its venue and by keeping in touch with them through its e-newsletter, social media and repeat visits. 50 Carleton leads an annual brainstorming session for all TNO staff members during which audiences are identified for the whole season and for each production, as well as thematic activities to enhance the patrons’ experience. All of these initiatives may seem mundane today, but when the TNO started using them way back in 2005-2006, it was, without a doubt, as a pioneer in the field. Today, the company continues to reap the benefit of its investments in audience development and seeks new opportunities and means to innovate.

For more information, please contact Denis J. Bertrand at 705 673 7385, denis@dbertrand.com or www.50Carleton.com.

Employee or Self-Employed? HR story highlights hazards

Heather Young, Young Associates | 

From time to time I will share stories from the field – names and details obscured!

One company went through a nerve-wracking time when a former worker – who had been hired on a fee-for-service contract as a freelance consultant – tried to claim EI and insisted to the folks at HRSDC that s/he had been an employee.

The government responded by notifying the company that they were responsible for remitting both the employer and the employee portions of EI and CPP for the duration of the contract. It was up to the company to appeal this decision, and prove that the worker had been properly treated as a freelancer.

To help the organization prepare its appeal, the government provided a lengthy questionnaire, much of it based on concepts you can read about in the CRA publication Employee or Self-employed?, published online.

The company also did some research, including checking the former worker’s social networking activities, where the individual clearly self-identified as a consultant for hire. It’s unclear whether that influenced the happy ending – but I can tell you that in at least one comparable case the defendant’s Facebook page did him in.

After many hours of work and months of waiting, the company finally received the happy news that their appeal was successful.

The CRA ruling made a strong effort to be balanced, stating that “the parties did not share a common intention as to the worker’s employment status” – although the company feels the status was always clear.  It outlined all the terms of employment in some detail, noting that the level of “control”, or supervision, of the employee and ownership of tools and equipment were neutral factors – they could have been interpreted to either party’s benefit. The fact that the worker was providing services personally and was not able to subcontract assigned work was deemed  consistent with the worker’s contention that s/he was an employee, but  the fact that the worker was free to take on other projects for personal profit, and promoted him/herself as a freelance communication consultant suggested to the CRA that s/he was “embarking on a business enterprise on his/her own account.”  Weighing all factors, the CRA ruled in the company’s favour: but in reading the written ruling, it looks like it was a close call.

Arts organizations and charities secure all sorts of services on part-time, part-year contracts. It’s worth the effort to research how a particular position should be treated (employee or self-employed?), and to be crystal-clear with the worker both verbally and in a written contract.

W. I. F. M. (What’s In It for Members?)

Jerry Smith, GM, First Stage | 

Recent strategic planning efforts by the Arts Consultants Canada’s Board of Directors resulted in a sharpened focus on its mission (To advance and promote ethical, excellent and effective consulting in Canada’s arts and culture sector.); not only would ACCA respond to the professional development needs of its membership – current and potential – but it would also shine that light of experience on the ongoing health and development of the sector. To respond to these two goals, ACCA has been using a combination of strategic approaches, including professional development for members and the sector, as well as networking events.

Membership survey responses confirmed that member and supporter needs were demanding, complex and varied; thus, the Programming Committee has responded over past seasons with a mixture of “big picture” issues (e. g. “Blurring Lines Between Commercial and NFP,” “Where is the Next Generation of Arts Manager,” and the most recent “Online Seminar on the New Canada Not-for-Profit Corporations Act .”), networking and knowledge sharing, and skill development (“Your Consulting Practise and Social Media”). These topics have been developed and delivered through a mixture of online webinars, guest speakers/panels, and networking. (Members can access notes/slides/videocasts HERE)

Recently, under the direction of ACCA stalwarts Jennifer Murray and Debra Chandler, Toronto/GTA members enjoyed the opportunity of participating in a pilot ‘Knowledge Exchange / Networking’ event. In a relaxed setting (i. E. bar), several key themes were explored around consultants and their practise: “How to Monetize My Expertise?” and “Collaborating/Partnering on RFPs re Strategic Plans;” “Managing Projects with Multiple Bosses (including Volunteer Committees” generated ideas, and a few laughs as well. Feedback from the event generated “terrific camaraderie, the absolute desire to continue this dialogue in similar events, and the sense that there is help available to enhance members’ current strengths and opportunities.

The Board of ACCA is committed to being responsible, and responsive; watch your inboxes for an upcoming membership Survey Monkey link, and tell us what to do.

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