NASAA Notes: September 2014


September issue
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September 10, 2014

NASAA Is for All of Us

This month, NASAA asked Theresa Colvin to reflect on her experience leading NASAA’s Nominating Committee.

I was honored and privileged to serve this year as the chair of NASAA’s Nominating Committee. As anyone knows who has ever served on this committee (affectionately known as NomComm), it is a great deal of work—but it is also exceptionally rewarding to have such extensive, deep conversations with fellow state arts agencies and to lead this annual opportunity to check in with the field.

I want to thank my colleagues on the committee as well as the many members who participated in the nominating process this year—86 of you from 52 member agencies! As you know, the Nominating Committee reaches out every year to every member executive director and chair. This outreach is timed to coordinate with the work of the Planning and Budget Committee so that feedback from members can inform NASAA’s annual planning process. The Nominating Committee invites members’ input about:

  • NASAA board and committee service;
  • ways that members used NASAA in the past year and their satisfaction with NASAA’s services;
  • members’ opinions about the most valuable things NASAA does;
  • suggestions about how NASAA can improve its service to state arts agencies.

You won’t be surprised to hear that we’re a vocal bunch! I’d like to share with you in this column some of the perspectives, ideas and suggestions that came out of this year’s process.

Leadership Abundance

A lot of members want to serve on the NASAA board, and every year the Nominating Committee has tough choices to make about the slate of directors we offer to the membership. When you think about it, though, too many people eager to serve on your board is a problem we want to have! To guide our decision making, our committee looks for leaders who are highly involved in their state arts agency and region, demonstrably knowledgeable about NASAA, experienced relationship builders, politically connected, politically savvy and effective advocates.

Diversity—in all its forms—is another important issue for the Nominating Committee. The NASAA board represents all state arts agencies, so it’s important to keep tabs on geographic representation. A balanced mix of women and men, executive directors and chairs, and new leaders and veterans also is essential. Members value cultural diversity, and have asked the board and Nominating Committee to work hard to identify, cultivate and nominate candidates who reflect our diverse nation. Finally, we need to nurture a strong pipeline of future leaders while continuing to engage those who rotate off the board. Many people say that service on the NASAA board is one of the best professional development experiences they’ve had, and we want to tap talents and skills during and beyond board service. It’s part of how we keep our field strong.

“We Love NASAA”

Members see NASAA as their premier advocate, champion and resource for state arts agencies. People with whom we spoke told stories of how NASAA helped them when they got into a jam, gave them great and timely information, and/or connected them with a welcoming and supportive community. Members deeply appreciate that NASAA looks out for our interests, both in Congress and with the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA). NASAA’s research is another member favorite: comparative information about trends, both fiscal and political, as well as data on per capita arts spending were mentioned often this year. There is very strong support for the technical assistance services NASAA provides, especially for help with mapping, strategic planning, performance measurement, and agency structure and consolidation issues. Convenings, listservs, webinars and Report to Councils briefings all are extremely popular, too. Comments from members included:

  • NASAA is a “one-stop shop” for SAAs.
  • NASAA’s ability to provide customized information to each member state is a remarkable service.
  • The most valuable thing NASAA does is to stay on top of what’s happening with Congress and the NEA’s budget.
  • NASAA information is always well thought out, well researched and always reliable. When we face a crisis situation, NASAA provides clarity on the issues.
  • NASAA monitors trends, maintains historical knowledge and puts everything in context. I trust NASAA. They are my “cone of confidentiality.”
  • NASAA coordinates all our state efforts to make a national difference.
  • I appreciate that NASAA exists just for the state arts agencies. That is critically important.
  • NASAA products, information and data give our board credibility with our legislature. It helps to make our limited dollars go further.

The Year Ahead

State arts agencies are in a better place overall this year. Many states are still hurting financially, but that haunting sense of crisis and scarcity that was so widespread in the last few years is giving way to a hopeful and engaged curiosity about what’s next for state arts agencies—and for NASAA, too.

Leadership transition is an important overall theme that emerged from this year’s conversations, with many members acknowledging Jonathan Katz’s departure and NASAA’s search for a new CEO, a new chairman at the NEA, and many new state arts agency executive directors and chairs joining the field. Plus, midterm elections are coming up!

Given all this turnover, members want NASAA to actively nurture these new relationships—to facilitate their success and pave the way for future opportunities. At the same time, members want NASAA to sustain the backbone of core services that state arts agencies count on every day—to remain a dependable source of support that puts state arts agencies first.

Involvement is another key theme. There is awareness that as state arts agency leadership changes, it’s important to engage newer voices in NASAA’s leadership, on committees and eventually on the board. Engaging chairs and council members is also important. Many appointed leaders noted that the more engaged they are with NASAA, the more effective they are in their states. NASAA should continue to increase its efforts to orient, educate and engage this important group.

On the Horizon

Members also posed some important longer-term issues and questions about our future, such as:

  • Transitions can be full of opportunities. What new opportunities do we want to create for NASAA and SAAs?
  • NASAA’s emphasis on the NEA is crucial, but what additional advocacy objectives—at the federal or state levels—would best benefit state arts agencies?
  • A lot of younger professionals don’t want to work long term in state bureaucracy. What does this mean for us, and how can NASAA help acclimate the newer leaders?
  • What will “sustainability” look like for the arts sector in the future? Can state arts agencies rethink those models? Can NASAA help?
  • As councils and staff continue to change, it is imperative that the messages about the value of NASAA be restated over and over. What are the most effective and creative ways to do this?

I’ve been thinking a lot about these questions, and I know many of you have been, too. NASAA is an excellent resource to help state arts agencies deal with these issues—today, and as we head into the future.

Thank you again to my Nominating Committee colleagues and to those of you who participated in this process. Thanks also to everyone who participates in NASAA as a member—when you use NASAA services, attend a conference, tell NASAA about a problem or a solution you have, make a donation, or serve on a committee or task force, you contribute to the strength and knowledge of the whole field. Be on the lookout for a report from the Nominating Committee in October. I look forward to seeing you in New Orleans in November!

In this Issue

State to State

Legislative Update

More Notes from NASAA

Executive Director's Column

Research on Demand




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