Must Reads

National Arts Strategies

Selected readings for arts and culture leaders from National Arts Strategies and the Getty Leadership Institute


Marketization-Themed Readings

Generations: The Challenge of a Lifetime for Your Nonprofit

Peter C. Brinckerhoff, (St. Paul: Fieldstone Alliance, 2007), “Change Is Upon Us,” pp. 11-34, “Financial Implications,” pp. 185-189.

Sustainable performing arts organizations understand their audiences.  Sustainable museums understand their visitors. Audiences and visitors change, generations differ and their impact on operations, marketing and finance shifts over time. For cultural organizations to stay in touch with their publics is a full time task. The eminently readable “Generations…,” winner of the 2008 McAdam Award for the best nonprofit management book, examines six trends involving generational change:  financial stress, technological acceleration, population diversity, family redefinition, “mebranding” and work-life balance. Of these, “mebranding” or ultra-customization is particularly interesting. A growing minority has become used to and demands highly tailored products, services and experiences.  Technology has accelerated the expectation of the highly customized offering.  Like most challenges, it can be viewed as a problem, an opportunity or both.

Audiences and visitors are not the only lenses through which Brinckerhoff looks at the implications of generational differences. All the same influences are at play within cultural organizations’ boards, staff and volunteers. Generational data (demographics and psychographics) don’t argue for turning an organization’s strategy on its head, much less calling for modifications in mission and vision. For Brinckerhoff, the data should have an appropriate influence in six ways. The data should:  be included in planning, trigger intergenerational conversations within the organization, be used in marketing, broaden the concept of diversity in hiring decisions, influence consideration of ways technology might add value to cultural experiences or extend their effect following a performance or museum visit and inspire leaders to ask and listen more often.

Available online »


The Marketization of the Nonprofit Sector: Civil Society at Risk?

Angela M. Elkenberry and Jodie Drapal Kluver, Public Administration Review (Mar/Apr 2004): pp. 132-140.

As nonprofit organizations, we create value in our communities and therefore help to maintain a strong civil society.  We not only provide services to our communities but also build citizenship skills and produce strong networks. In recent years, however, the lines between the nonprofit and the private market have blurred as many of the techniques and values of the latter have been adopted by the former. Some of these new approaches are helpful in keeping nonprofits afloat in a turbulent economy. Individual organizations may be thriving, but how is this widespread blurring of boundaries affecting civil society as a whole?

In this journal article, authors Elkenberry and Drapal Kluver examine the threat that “marketization” poses to democracy and citizenship. They argue that the commercial market is driven by a different set of goals and values which can compromise the nonprofit sector’s role as a guardian of values and builder of social capital. They maintain that leaders of nonprofits must understand their role as not only service providers but also keepers of civil society and democracy to continue to add unique value.

We mark this piece as provocative because it raises some rarely asked and possibly unpopular questions about the role our organizations play in the community. Leaders may or may not agree with Elkenberry and Drapal Kluver, but reading this article will certainly get anyone thinking about the wider role and responsibilities of nonprofit organizations.

Available online »