As some of you know, I recently had the honor of competing in a dance competition to raise money for the non-profit organization Young Audiences of New Jersey and Eastern Pennsylvania (YA). The Dazzle Mad Hot Ballroom, YA’s annual gala, was the most fun I have ever had at a fundraising event – both as an observing supporter and a participant. While I did not win the coveted plastic disco ball trophy, we were all winners as corporate supporters, performing artists, and the four competing dancers raised over $200,000 in support for YA so kids can get access to inspiring arts programming.
Throughout this process, I have gotten to know YA inside and out and have been thoroughly impressed with this organization. I think businesses, including my own, can learn a lot from YA.
Here are five reasons why I believe YA has had a substantial, growing impact for 45 years:
1. Mission-Obsessed – YA clearly knows how powerful the arts can be when it comes to inspiring and changing the lives of young students. Their staff are more than just subject-matter experts in education and the arts. They immerse themselves in their goals and continue to be fiercely dedicated to their mission because they see the immediate, measurable impact of their work in kids’ lives day after day. Lesson for business – Become obsessed with your mission.
2. Culture of Passionate Professionalism – The staff at YA are outstanding professionals in their crafts: marketing, development, programming, finance, and administration. They would all be highly successful in any world-class, for-profit organization. But they chose the challenging road of the non-profit world because of their passion to create positive change through the arts. Lesson for business – Be passionately professional.
3. Partnership Approach – YA knows its customers very well. They partner with schools to bring the most relevant and timely arts programming to their kids to have an enduring impact. They also partner with their corporate and individual supporters in creative ways to achieve mutual strategic and philanthropic objectives. Lesson for business – Partner wisely, and partner well.
4. Transparency about Impact – YA is focused on measuring and increasing impact. They share their information eloquently and consistently. Their track record of effectiveness and efficiency is best in class, and they aren’t shy about sharing their impressive progress. Lesson for business – Be proudly transparent about your work.
5. Marketing Wizards – YA’s internal and external marketing communication machine is well oiled and operated. They are master story-tellers who develop inspirational video content and disseminate it effectively through social media. Lean budgets for marketing have forced them to develop and deliver targeted communications and expand their reach and influence. Lesson for business – Know and grow your audience.
Working closely with YA was such an inspiring experience on both a personal and professional level. While these five lessons may not necessarily be “new” ideas for the business world, I find it valuable to look at how these initiatives cluster together, and to consider how business culture can be reformed to mirror the success of this non-profit champion for the arts.
May 1, 2018
Written by Tom Sullivan
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