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The Difficulties of Marketing for non Profit Arts Organizations



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The leaders of nonprofit arts organizations face many obstacles when it comes to marketing the arts to the public at large. First, they must realize that although they may not have a large budget, they must spend money to make money. Second, they must be able to identify who their customers are, what category they fit into and how to satisfy their needs. Finally, they must be able to think in both long term and short term marketing plans without losing the focus and vision of their arts organization. It is this combination of problems which make it difficult to market a nonprofit arts organization.

One of the main problems of marketing the arts is that one must spend expenses to generate expenses. The budgets of nonprofit organizations depend on grants from the government and contributions from private donors. This means that the grants and funding an organization received last year may be more than the grants and funding they receive this year. Therefore, budgets must be reworked, and programs or jobs may be downsized or cut. Since many small or medium sized arts organizations do not have large budgets for advertising, they must rely heavily on public relations. Some smaller arts organizations don't have a budget for a full time public relations director, so the job of public relations falls on multiple people. If an arts organization is fortunate enough to have a director of public relations, the director must be able to formulate new strategies to bring attention to their location. Instead of just placing ads in newspapers, they must be able to generate press for exhibits or programs by formulating stories that will appeal to local news publications.

The desired outcome of local press is to attract customers, which is another difficulty of marketing the nonprofit arts. This is complicated because there will be several types of customers. There are the clients for the service, and the donors of the funds to provide that service. Each of these groups will have a different set of needs and will need to be marketed to separately. One further problem may be that some nonprofit organizations simply do not recognize the requirement to meet their customers' needs. The measure most frequently suggested to replace "profit" in the nonprofit context appears to be "match." Therefore, the nonprofit organization should seek, to make the best match between use of its resources and the needs of its customers or clients. In a nonprofit arts organization, marketing is a means of optimizing this "match," of most productively matching the resources available to provide what the users need and want which is the same as in any commercial operation. The consensus seems to be that marketing doesn't ensure an audience, but it increases the chances of creating one for the exhibits, performances, and programs of all the arts organizations charged with promoting the state's cultural offerings.

While promoting the cultural offerings of the state, an effective arts organization leader must be able to deal with the difficulty of marketing the arts in both short term and long term marketing plans. Since the budgets of most nonprofit organizations vary from year to year, this has to be done on a very careful basis with room for the unexpected growth or loss of funds. Therefore a strong marketing plan must be developed for both short and long term ideas. Exhibits and programs must be mapped out for the future, but at the same time, the reality of the present must be dealt with. Previous programs must be looked at, and both the positives and negatives must be noted so that in the future; funds, time, and human resources will not be wasted. For each arts organization there is an equation that defines the balance between what the organization needs, hopes or wants to do artistically and programmatically, and the available human and financial resources. This equation has to be defined and balanced repeatedly; for each operational year, possibly every six months or even less. An effective arts manager must remember that long-range planning can't solve short-term needs and problems.

One can conclude that an effective leader of a nonprofit arts organization must possess the right combination of artistic sensitivity and managerial ability to deal with the challenges of marketing their organization. Since they do not have a large amount of funds for advertising, they must accept that to bring funds into their organization, they must spend funds. They must be able to attract customers, who fit into various categories with different needs. They must push stories about their organization with an interesting and broad focus which capture the attention of wide and diverse audiences.They must also be able to think in both short and long term plans when it comes to marketing. It is this combination of challenges that make it hard to market the arts for a small or medium sized organization.

 

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