Earlier this year I was asked, with my close colleague and friend Susan Royce, to put together some business planning guidance that could be used to support arts and cultural organisations.
We were both intrigued by the proposition; it was certainly an interesting opportunity. There was however a brief hesitation. There is already a raft of guidance available – was it worth adding more ‘noise’ in an already busy space. There was also a concern that it might be seen as a ‘blueprint’ rather than guidance and that would lead to the production of some pretty bland business plans.
This led us to a debate what we could do that would be most useful. We talked about our experiences of working on business plans with arts and non-profit organisations and what started to emerge was our joint interest in the process of putting business planning into practice. The guidance started to evolve into something that is theoretically sound, reflects the process in practice and acknowledges that in some areas there are things you just have to do.
We deliberately wove these three areas together to try and create something that was of real practical value. We would both acknowledge there is nothing earth shattering or wildly innovative in the guidance, in many ways that wasn’t the point. What we wanted was something usable across a range of subsectors and organisational types.
Having worked with hundreds of arts and cultural organisations between us this guidance is, we like to think, the result of our collective wisdom. We have highlighted what we have seen as some of the pitfalls of business planning, we have also included some tools and tips that often seem to work in practice.
We have both been delighted that it was well received by Arts Council England and that it has featured in recent briefings, but more than anything we hope it achieves its purpose.
If you are thinking about applying for Arts Council England NPO investment 2018-2022 you can find other useful documents here.
Susan and I are also considering setting up a closed Facebook group to act as a support space for anyone using the guidance or just generally interested in business planning in the arts and cultural sector. If this might be of interest do let us know.
Sign up details to be announced!