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What Organizational Support Looks Like Today

Michael Ibrahim, Program Manager

Mass Cultural Council staff developing the next generation of programs and services for cultural organizations
Mass Cultural Council staff developing the next generation of programs and services for cultural organizations

Organizational support. The term is synonymous with those hard-to-find, but never enough, unrestricted operating funds. Funds that help the organization deliver on its mission by paying salaries, rent, the electric bill, and the all-important toilet paper order. This usually means the end-of-year direct mail campaign, #GivingTuesday, major gift asks, and that fundraiser that never ends up netting what you budgeted. And to a mostly smaller extent, that also includes the work of institutional funders, such as the Mass Cultural Council’s Cultural Investment Portfolio (CIP), community foundations, and super-smart independent and family foundations.

While unrestricted operating support is more necessary than ever, it’s by far the only support that organizations need. Organizations need support in resiliency strategies.  This means helping organizations anticipate, prepare, respond, and adapt to incremental change and sudden disruptions in order to survive and prosper. This work reaches beyond risk management and towards a more holistic view of organizational health and success. Building capacity, collaborations, networks, shared learning, and tailored, adaptive strategies are just some of the work we feel are important in supporting organizations.

To accomplish this feat, the CIP has created its own approach to organization support. Yes, there’s the important unrestricted operating support, but much of the hassle has been stripped away; organizations in the Portfolio do not re-apply, submit evaluations, or revert to ‘funder-speak’, that perfect Chamber of Commerce routine that organizations know all too well. Rather, the relationship is built upon trust, and sustained via a long term partnership.

But beyond the financial support, the majority of our work can be found in our services; workshops, strategy sessions, capacity building sessions, roundtable discussions, learning networks, financial health inventorying, data benchmarking, ‘small shop’ convenings, specific partnerships with local and state agencies, championing conversations around diversity, equity, inclusion, and even our podcast, Creative Minds Out Loud, devoted to sharing the Commonwealth’s creative capital with arts and culture nerds everywhere. To help organizations improve resiliency, we believe that this work needs a wide-angle lens. It’s not a one-time effort to improve short-term effectiveness, but rather a continuous improvement strategy towards the creation of sustainable organizations. Financial support alone does little to help organizations be resilient.

We are constantly amazed by our sector’s creative, strategic, and adaptive work in program delivery, despite ever-increasing challenges. Our vision of operating support is to do whatever is needed to help our organizations get to the next level of operational, programmatic, and financial maturity, so they can have a long-lasting impact on people, communities, the cultural sector, and the entire Commonwealth.

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