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Daily Nuggets: A For Impact Blog

Res Ipsa Loquitur


I just got back from Monterey, California from a session with a wonderful group of social entrepreneurs, change agents and For Impact leaders. Also, Kerry and I just got some terrific follow-up from our training session in Ireland. Based on these sessions and some very recent conversations, I would offer up the following 3 (connected) things this week:

1. RES IPSA LOQUITUR: THE THING SPEAKS FOR ITSELF. This is some kind of Latin legal term. Loosely translated by me, it also means IT IS WHAT IT IS.

  • You need more money. You expect that to happen by doing the same thing you’ve been doing. It won’t.

  • You have a toxic Board member. You expect them to suddenly turn into a CHAMPION. They won’t.

IT IS WHAT IT IS. Deal with it.

2. FACE THE BRUTAL FACTS. My good friend Jeff Bernel, who headed up the Gigot Center for Entrepreneurial Studies, told this to me very directly one day at lunch. I’ve never forgotten it.

  • You’d like to have endowment to cover your entire operating budget. It ain’t going to happen. Ever. So FBF and start doing a much better job of raising Annual Operating Revenue.

  • You have a member of your staff or team that needs to get off the bus. It’s as much in their interest as yours. FBF and make it happen. Now.

3. DO THE MATH. As we say in our For Impact World, DO THE BLUE MATH around your Cause and Case and Impact. DO THE ‘RED’ MATH around your Staff, People and Operations. And DO THE ‘GREEN’ MATH around your Income, Funding Plan, Pyramid, etc.

  • Your Tuition is T. Your Cost of Education is C. T – C = G… the GAP. Know it. Sell it.
  • You have been operating at a deficit for the last five years, including a record $2.3M for the 2006-07 season.
  • Next year’s projections show a $3M shortfall on a $12.5M budget.
  • DO THE MATH!!

I’m not making this last one up. Headline of an editorial of Sunday’s Columbus Dispatch said: “DO THE MATH”. It proceeded to talk about the Columbus Symphony being “at a crossroads that will determine whether it continues or folds”. “If its members continue to avoid financial reality, the Symphony will fold, probably as of June 1st.”

From what I know, the Symphony (Staff and Board) have gone to the community leaders each year for the last five or six years with a last-minute plea to cover operating deficits. The Dispatch says that the “Musicians negotiated for wages and benefits that now far exceed the resources available…”

I think this is a clear example of a very, very good arts organization that may have failed to DO THE MATH and FACE THE BRUTAL FACTS. Community leadership has finally said they were done bailing it out. Here’s the kicker from the editorial.

“The union disingenuously accuses the Board of being derelict in its duty to seek out more donations, but the Board is realistic in its estimates of what the Symphony can expect from its benefactors.

If anything, the refusal of musicians to recognize financial reality discourages donations because it undermines the confidence of current and prospective donors that the Symphony is a sound investment.”

No kidding.

A not so gentle example and reminder to all of us to:

FACE THE BRUTAL FACTS.

DO THE MATH.

And, acknowledge that THE THING SPEAKS FOR ITSELF.