(Adam Thurman gave the following remarks at the opening Homeroom of the Financial Adaptation arc at the 2013 TCG National Conference: Learn Do Teach in Dallas.)
Before I got into marketing, I was a lawyer.
In that world, before a trial begins, sometimes the lawyers like to stipulate things to make them part of the official record.
So as we start the Financial Adaptation Arc, allow me to stipulate the following.
1. All of you need more money. Whether you work in marketing, fundraising or the executive side of the world, you chose this Arc because you are interested in generating more money for your organizations . . . and probably yourselves. There is no shame in that, so let’s just get that out into the open.
2. There are legitimate barriers between you and the money you seek. You guys know the challenges. They are real, complex and difficult.
3. You are afraid. I know people aren’t supposed to admit that so I’ll just make it personal. I’m afraid. I’ve had plenty of success as a marketing of director of a LORT organization but I still have plenty of moments when I’m freaked out by what’s happening. I worry that our prices are too high. I’m concerned about the difficulty in reaching audiences.
With that out of the way let’s talk about adaptation. Adaptation, financial or otherwise, requires two things. The first is knowledge. You’ll get plenty of that over the next few days. The second thing required is much harder. The second thing is the willingness to ask the real questions.
We’ve only got a few days together so we really don’t have time for BS. When you are working with each other, it’s important to ask the real question.
Maybe the real question is how to work with a Board that is scared to death to change.
Maybe the real question is how to market work that is poorly executed or poorly received by the public.
Maybe the real issue is something else entirely.
The point is that you’ve got to be willing to ask for what you need. And you can’t be satisfied until you get it. That’s how adaptation happens.
The third thing that is required is the willingness to help each other. This room is filled with beautiful, smart, sexy people. Every issue that you have faced, someone else has faced and overcome. Help each other.
That’s all it takes. Let’s get started.
Adam Thurman is the director of marketing for Court Theatre, one of the largest nonprofit theaters in Chicago. During his tenure, Court has had some of the highest grossing production in its 57 year history. He is also the founder of Mission Paradox, an organization devoted to connecting art and audience. He authors a widely read blog on the arts, marketing, leadership, diversity, and other issues at MissionParadox.com. He has been featured in the LA Times, Time Out New York, the Chicago Tribune, Chicago Artist Resources and TedxBroadway. Adam is a former board member of the League of Chicago Theatres and has served on the Illinois Arts Council’s Advisory Panel. He has been recognized as an Emerging Leader by Americans for the Arts and the Theatre Communication Group (TCG). He is also a member of the TED mentor program and provides support and counsel to TED Fellows.