Dayton arts groups' merger makes sense: Part II

Posted on March 14, 2012 by Pam Truitt

Last week, I wrote about the merger of three Dayton arts groups -- the Dayton Ballet, Dayton Philharmonic and Dayton Opera.

This week, I’m delving into the process from 30,000 feet and highlighting the role of ‘patience’.

About three years ago, The Dayton Foundation kicked off the restructuring process with a well-attended forum for nonprofits around the topic of collaboration models.

Following the informative session, the foundation offered to underwrite the cost of a preliminary assessment for any organization desiring to explore a partnership. About 20 organizations stepped-up to take the plunge. That's pretty impressive.

The Dayton Foundation engaged Dave Ramey of Strategic Leadership Associates to work with the nonprofits, helping to determine their readiness.

The assessments were completed and the line went silent.

There were a few stirrings, but not enough signal strength to warrant a forward move by anyone.

“Patience is the ability to idle your motor when you feel like stripping your gears.” - Barbara Johnson

This quote pretty much describes the mood at the foundation. They were standing by to financially assist, but no one came knocking!

I don’t know what was going on in the minds of the nonprofits during this time, so I’m going to step into their space and tell it as I see it.

I think the assessment process aroused their curiosity about business models they hadn’t previously been aware of. But, I think it took time for each of the three groups to think through the process and build relationships among themselves before taking on a major undertaking. In the meantime, the world turned and other changes happened. Funding streams changed and the economy worsened.

After a time, the Dayton ballet, orchestra and opera circled back to the foundation ready to proceed. The Dayton Foundation stepped-up with facilitator funding, retaining Strategic Leadership Associates to guide the process.

Mike Parks, CEO of The Dayton Foundation, noted that a board member with a strong financial background, whom was respected by all, provided tremendous leadership throughout the process by explaining complex financials without advocating.

Creating new paradigms takes a long time.

The facilitator helped the groups navigate the process and allowed them to determine the outcome.

Successful mergers require leadership, willingness and capacity.

The merger made sense to the arts groups.

Do you think mergers make sense for arts groups?

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