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Many asked me to post a compilation of responses I received as a result of my
post asking for suggestions as the Pittsburgh Camerata embarks on a strategic
planning project. My thanks to all who replied. To the best of my ability I
have listed the respondents and their suggestions. I apologize to anyone
I've missed or jumbled up.
A quick summary: By far the most common suggestion was to see what Chorus
America has to offer.
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From: Scheier Joanne P
Barclay Susan T
Subject: Responses from Choralist re Strategic Planning
Date: Fri, 6 Aug 1999 09:38:52 -0400
The first thing I would find out is if the chorus is a member of Chorus
America (they have a website).
Chorus America's purpose is to help in consulting on fundraising, operations
of organizations, etc.
They would be the first people to query. You could become an individual
member of CA. They offer consultation and they also have a book on
operations (just check with them). I think they would be the most help to
Second suggestion, see if the Pittsburgh Chamber of Commerce participates in
running a program called Business Volunteers for the Arts. The program
trains business persons in the community to help in different phases of arts
organization operations. Typically they match the applying chorus with a
business person in the community to help with their needs, to include
non-singing board member training. (I know Atlanta, GA has it. You could
check their website to get a better idea about it.)
Gwinnett Festival Singers
I suggest that you contact Robert Martin, conductor of the Southfield
Madrigal Chorale (Michigan). His choir recently went through this
complete process with an outside consultant.
Executive Director, Michigan School Vocal Music Association
In a word (2 words, actually): Chorus America. Check out their web site
(through ChoralNet), become members, use their administrative advise and
expertise. That's what they are here for!
Faith F. Brill
16 Park Place
Cheshire, CT 06410
My name is Larry Phillips. I am in new Orleans and a member of the Symphony
Chorus of New Orleans. We recently underwent the same process you are
to start. Below is a link to Chorus america, a terrific organization
to the care and feeding of choruses, both professional and non.
Contact them and see what they can do. The member ship costs are minimal
they can sometimes provide a consultant to help assess the needs of your
By the way, one of the founding members of the organization is Robert Page,
director of the Mendelssohn Choir, I believe in your fair city.
Good Luck and let me know how it comes out.
suggest you contact Joan Welles at 847-459-8351. She is an expert in this
2236 West Dickens
Chicago, IL 60647
Chorus America has a number of materials that could help you make that
transition. In addition, they offer counseling and mentor programs
for most business and artistic endeavors. I don't know their webadress or
phone number off the top of my head but they have a weblink on the
Choralnet web page. I believe Bob Page is on their Board of Directors and
I'm sure he would be happy to talk to you about the organization. Good
Steven Zopfi, Music Director
Grace Lutheran Church
1001 13th Street
If your chorus isn't already a member of Chorus America, I would suggest
you contact them as soon as possible re: your interest in strategic
If your group already belongs, then the same suggestion also applies.
Chorus America is located in Washington, DC--try information for the
number. They are THE professional organization for choruses such as
yours, and have a staff which is eager and well-qualified to assist you
in 1) your personal growth in this area--their annual Conference has
excellent sessions for board members over a three-day period, and 2)
your organization's musical and administrative growth--they annually
sponsor a ten day conference for staff members of growing choruses, at
no charge to the attendees or their employers, as well as other
workshops and mini-conferences throughout the US.
A call to them today would certainly result in learning immediately
about books/magazines/journals on your topics of interest which you
I am sure that Chorus America has its own materials which they would be
happy to send you.
The membership fee is quite low, and has paid for itself several times
of the six years my group has belonged.
University Musical Society Choral Union
Ann Arbor, MI
You might like to order this publication from Chorus America
The Chorus Handbook
Chorus 101: The "How-To" Book for Organizing and Operating a Professional
and Volunteer Choral Ensemble
Edited by Robert Page, Lousie Greenberg, Fred Leise
There are 173 pages divided into 15 chapters, each written by a different
professional, and dealing with almost every aspect of running a chorus that
one could imagine.
Be sure to post a compilation back to Choralist. There are probably some
other great resources out there, too.
Hope you're having a great summer. Sounds like you're busy!
(I'm the Choralist moderator the next few days, so that's why you're
getting this response before your post has appeared!)
monica j. hubbard
consultant for organizational management
1843 north pepper drive
altadena, ca 91001-3436
Although I am now a music publisher, I retired several years ago from
Microsoft where I was one of three Program Managers leading a team of
designers and programmers to create the first five versions of the software
to deliver MSNBC News on the Internet. In addition, I've been a choral
conductor for about 30 years, including 17 years with The Boeing Employees
Choir (we just returned from a concert tour in Australia and New Zealand).
The process you describe is a basic one at Microsoft. It goes kind of like
- What do our customers need?
For a community choir, your customers are your members and
your audiences. You will have to decide which one is your priority.
- What "products" or "services" will fill those needs?
For audiences, it might be concerts, kinds of performances, etc.
For your members, it might be a tour, a recording project, etc.
- Which of these products or services do we want to deliver?
Unless you have no creative people on your board, you will have
to prioritize all the possibilities and make some hard choices.
- What do we need to acquire, or change, or build, in order to deliver
The resources you need can be categorized as people (often with
specific skills), and equipment (including money), and facilities.
These must be balanced and evaluated in relation to your target
date(s) for your goals.
- When can we deliver them?
Considering the resources you now have and those you can
acquire, when can you reasonably deliver? This part should
also include some specific milestones that give you and your
group interim points where you can reaffirm that you are on
track. Each of your milestones can be an opportunity to
adjust your delivery date(s) and/or your goals, and/or your
- How will we know we were successful?
Your goals need to be stated in such a way they can be
measured Rather than say "Do more concerts" say how
many concerts you will do. That gives you a quantifiable
number to use in your evaluation.
If you or someone on your board would like to call me to discuss your
plans, I would be happy to volunteer. You might also look at our web site
DemiQ Music, Inc.
Toll Free: 1-888-204-4440
If you or your group are not familiar with Chorus America you need to
it out right away. They exist soley for the purpose of helping professional
community choirs operate. You can get information about them at
www.Chorusamerica.org . I highly recommend that you check it out. Best of
you in your endeavors.
The Helios Ensemble, Dallas, TX
strongly recommend the following book: "Value for Value" by Burke
Keegan (sp?). It covers the role of the Board and motivation for
raising money, etc. It's available only from the author:
261 Sausalito St.
Corte Madera, CA 94925
I have no affiliation with this person; I only know our Board all
read this book and were very much more effective because of it. It
costs about $15.
Allen H Simon
Soli Deo Gloria
Dear Joanne --
I was forwarded your message by my choir director. I have one book about
Strategic Planning that outlines the steps for a Strategic Planning process.
It is rather lengthy and may be more than you need, but I know that there is
a companion step-by-step workbook that might be more useful for your
purposes. The book is called "Strategic Planning for Public and Nonprofit
Organizations" by John M. Bryson (and I think the workbook probably has the
There is also a great organization and web site that will probably have
a lot of the info you need. It is the National Center for Nonprofit Boards:
Center for Nonprofit Board
(http://www.ncnb.org/main.htm). They have books, articles, an upcoming
conference on strategic planning, and an email newsletter called "Board
that is very good.
Hope this helps.
Oh,boy, have you opened a can of worms. I could go on for hours. However,
as a beginning statement, I would say to establish a written mission
statement that really defines what it is you want to do, both in terms of
financial and business policies and in terms of artistic goals. Many groups
have such mission statements, but they are just words. Make one that you
really refer to and use as your constitutional authority when decisions are
to be made. Next, I suggest a thorough review of all professional contracts
which you issue, making sure that they represent current practice and that
they clearly define the parameters of the various responsibilities. For
example, is that extra half hour that your director used after rehearsal to
work with your soloist part of the rehearsal time or to be paid
Sounds nit-picky, but things like that can really be a problem with some
Just a few hints.......................
Check with nearby university Business Schools. They almost certainly can
recommend facilitators, either professional or perhaps MBA students. It
isn't necessary for the facilitator to be an expert in the subject area.
In fact, it can be an eye-opener having to spell out for someone the
unstated assumptions that any organization is presently operating under!
John & Susie Howell
Virginia Tech Department of Music
Blacksburg, Virginia, U.S.A. 24061-0240
Vox (540) 231-8411 Fax (540) 231-5034