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Reading List: business model Theme

Is social media changing your model, maybe?

Summer’s winding down, and I’m sure most of you have heard Carly Rae Jepsen’s “Call Me Maybe” roughly 2,000 times by now. Maybe you’re sick of it. Maybe it’s still catchy and you love the endless stream of lip-synced tribute videos. Maybe you wonder why this song, of all the songs out there, has caught on like wildfire.

A few years ago I heard an interesting NPR piece positing that this kind of popularity might be attributed to derivative content, citing Ke$ha’s “TiK ToK” and Avatar as examples. A recent New York Times article about “Call Me Maybe” by Ben Sisario focuses instead on a change in the process by which songs become hits, crediting social media’s increasing influence with altering the standard progression of a track from relative obscurity to “song of the summer.” (more…)


Finding Your Funding Model

In a follow up to their 2009 article ‘Ten Nonprofit Funding Models,’ Peter Kim, Gail Perreault and William Foster of the Bridgespan Group argue organizations often have a clearer vision of what their programs will be in five years than of the funding that will support them. They offer a road map for leaders seeking to develop appropriate funding models for their organizations:

Getting a deep understanding of one’s own fundraising approach and history, learning from peers, tallying the likely costs of change and weighing them against expected benefits—are three critical steps on the road to a funding model. And when the time comes to pilot and implement the one or two most promising funding models, a well-developed plan is essential.

And they remind why a critical but oft-overlooked aspect of strategy is knowing what to say ‘no’ to:

Moving forward with more than two [models] carries a high risk of overtaxing management and development staff. Then why not just settle on a single funding model right now?
The issue is uncertainty. At this stage, it may still be difficult for a nonprofit to know which model will work best, and there could be benefits in trying out the two most promising options to see which has the best prospects.

The authors offer two disclaimers in the form of size and a necessary precondition: organizations must be ‘free of immediate financial distress and [able to] focus on developing a long-term funding strategy’ as well as over $3 million in annual revenue. Below this level, the more ‘idiosyncratic’ approaches that predominate are likely to be as productive, therefore not justifying the significant investment inherent in their process.

Finding Your Funding Model (SSIR article)

Finding Your Funding Model: A Practical Approach to Nonprofit Sustainability (Bridgespan website with tool)


Orchestras at the Cross Roads

Jesse Rosen, President and CEO of the League of American Orchestras, provides a clear-eyed view of the challenges facing orchestras in his plenary remarks from the League conference this month. The fundamental issues he highlights in community relevance, governance, stakeholder cooperation, and financial “clarity” are important considerations for cultural leaders in all disciplines.



Rethinking Capitalism

In this video interview on Rethinking Capitalism, Michael Porter (of Porter’s Five Forces fame, among other things) shares an interesting take on the new nature of relevance for organizations in society. Porter argues that the old standby “what’s good for business is good for society” that has defined the relationship between U.S. business and society is giving way. He turns this on its head, arguing “what is good for society is good for business.”

For most people in our sector, the traditional capitalist argument probably never held sway. What is really interesting here is Porter’s argument that competitive opportunity will come from rethinking your organization’s relevance and place as a contributor to society. His idea of “shared value” challenges leaders to think about value more broadly, considering both the direct value you create through your activities and the cluster of benefits created (or that could be created) in delivering that service.

While our organizations already have artistic and social missions at their core, there are great questions here to consider. Are we designing programs to maximize the social benefit we create? Are we considering the full cluster of social benefits that we could be creating? Are we using suppliers and every step in the supply chain to create that value? Are we creating new forms of partnerships with corporations who embrace this shared value perspective?

Rethinking Capitalism.


Disrupting College

Clay Christensen and his team at Innosight Institute apply Christensen’s model of disruptive innovation to higher education. It is a compelling presentation of the systematic barriers that keep the higher education sector from meeting its mission, the role that online learning technology and new providers are playing in changing the sector, and the way the business models of established institutions stop them from responding effectively.

So why do we care in the arts and culture sector? I see powerful similarities between the structural issues in the two sectors. Consider the following issues in the education sector, and consider which ones you also see in arts and culture: (more…)



I have a tall stack of books at home, all of which I am in the process of reading (yes, I am one of those people). I choose to start and stop a book based on topic and sometimes the number of pages and size of type. Recently, I picked up one of the books in my stack – Rework by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson (the founders of 37 Signals who brought us Basecamp, Ruby on the Rails, and Backpack). This book encapsulates about five times its volume in management theory and it is fun to read. I read it cover to cover in a very short span of time.

The book is divided into short segments with titles such as “Workaholism” and “Reasons to quit” and one of my favorites, “Emulate chefs” (yes, I enjoy the food network). So, if you need a break from the holiday food frenzy or from your great stack of reading, try this book.


What’s an organization for?

With many folks talking about the need for new business models to make arts organizations more sustainable, The Artful Manager’s Andrew Taylor takes the discussion a bit further.

What’s an organization for? – The Artful Manager.


Mapping Business Models

This post introduces an interesting, knowledge-game approach to understanding and developing an organization’s strategic direction. It includes a mapping tool and suggestions for how to create a team session which can be focused in any number of ways – “at the very least the game leads to a refined and shared understanding of an organization’s business model. At its best it helps players develop strategic directions for the future by outlining new and/or improved business models for the organization.”

We’ve used similar mapping tools for our model development, but not with the game-based approach. If any organizations do try it out, I’m curious to hear what you think about it.

Mapping Business Models.