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Consultant Drew McManus – who symphony Director Ron Spigelman calls a "truth-seeker" – is digging in to the operations of the symphony and regional arts council to position them for growth.
Consultant Drew McManus – who symphony Director Ron Spigelman calls a "truth-seeker" – is digging in to the operations of the symphony and regional arts council to position them for growth.

Arts council, symphony hire consultant

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Chicago-based consultant Drew McManus says Springfield is experiencing a "cultural renaissance," which is all the more reason for local arts organizations to assess their strategic and financial goals.

McManus, owner of Drew McManus LLC, specializes in orchestra consulting, but he's working with both the Springfield Symphony Orchestra and Springfield Regional Arts Council to help the groups prepare for inevitable growing pains and sustained success.

"It's undeniable that they are going to continue to grow," he said. "There will be expanded artistic activity, which will require expanded fundraising activity."

That statement resonates with symphony Music Director Ron Spigelman, who personally recommended McManus for the job. Spigelman was acquainted with the consultant through the blogging community at www.insidethearts.com, which offers a behind-the-scenes perspective to the world of performing arts.

McManus' strategic planning and board development project in Springfield will evaluate the arts organizations' creative and financial positions. The solution he's after: "Where do they want to go in the next few years, and how to best go about doing that?"

Spigelman said he's looking forward to soliciting business-minded donors with the symphony's strategic goals, and the plan for achieving them, in hand.

"They're used to business plans and models, and if they see one, it would give them a balanced viewpoint," he said. "People give you a different look when they see you've done your due diligence."

Spigelman said the symphony and arts council received a $5,000 capacity-building grant from the Missouri Arts Council plus $2,500 from the newly created Arts Programming Sustainability Initiative to hire McManus, who was in Springfield last week to meet with the symphony's six-member executive board. When he returns at the end of this week, he'll turn his attention to the arts council.

McManus began the process several weeks ago by asking members of both organizations - from board members to management and musicians, in the symphony's case - to participate in self-assessment surveys. He also conducted follow-up phone interviews with many of the respondents.

Learning how members of these organizations perceive themselves and their levels of effectiveness is important, McManus said. Equally important is an honest review of each organization's financial condition, he added.

McManus said the symphony looks to be in good financial health, with revenues matching or exceeding expenditures in recent years and no evidence of "creative accounting" methods.

In fiscal 2008, the symphony's income totaled $833,693, with $821,517 in expenditures, said Finance Manager Lindsay Clark. The symphony has had an annual budget surplus for four years running, she said.

The arts council, which had $766,776 in income in fiscal 2008 versus $681,259 in expenditures, has more work to do in terms of tying revenue opportunities to its forthcoming strategic plan, he said, noting that neither group is in peril.

"They're not undergoing a strategic planning process because of problems; it's the exact opposite," McManus said. "They're undergoing a strategic planning process because they're in a tremendous growth cycle right now. Almost exclusively, it is the exception to the rule in my work the last year."

The end goal for both groups is to develop a "singular, long-term vision" that is based in reality, said McManus, who Spigelman described as a "truth-seeker." Both Spigelman and outgoing SRAC Board President Gloria Galanes are looking forward to McManus' no-nonsense recommendations, which he'll return to present in person in late June.

Spigelman said those recommendations should lay the groundwork for the symphony's next several years, whether he's still in charge or not. He expects possible changes to the board's governance and bylaws as well as policies regarding negotiations between management and labor.

"I don't think it will continue to operate as is," Spigelman said.

The arts council is likewise eager to chart its course for the next five years, Galanes said, adding that a $1.3 million federal grant that has helped fund the organization's programming expires in August 2010.

"We're at a critical juncture now, (asking) how do we go forward? Who are we? What is our role in the community?" Galanes said. "That's what we need some external help with, and Drew came highly recommended."

Galanes said she was intrigued by one of the models proposed by McManus that would structure the arts council more like a "chamber of commerce for the arts."

The strategic planning process is particularly timely because SRAC is seeking a new executive director. Sandra CH Smith announced earlier this month that she would resign May 22 after more than two years to move back to Eureka Springs, Ark., where she owns Cliff Cottage Inn. The SRAC board voted unanimously May 20 to install Leah Hamilton Jenkins as interim director.

Jenkins is coordinator of the Arts Programming Sustainability Initiative, an effort conceived by area nonprofit agencies and universities to bring Springfield's cultural offerings under one brand to raise awareness and money for the arts. She was formerly the education director at the arts council.

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