Most people think of planning as the time to decide how to use existing dollars wisely. While this is certainly true, planning also presents the opportunity to try and leverage new resources for your agency. Some of the case studies described earlier have positioned state arts agencies to secure budget increases. Following are some strategies to consider as you embark on your own process.
1. Express what you are accomplishing with the dollars you already have.
Demonstrating accountability and "making the case" typically mean justifying allocations in terms of outputs (products and services offered) and outcomes (the public benefits they provide). Use performance measurement data as well as anecdotal evidence to express the progress you've made in accomplishing your plan's goals. Be sure to use a variety of measures, and organize your information so that the three-way relationship between your resources, your plan and your accomplishments is explicit. Become familiar with NASAA's Performance Measurement Toolkit. This publication can assist you when you need to translate agency goals and activities into measurable outputs and outcomes. Legislators, like everyone, love a winner, so demonstrating success with the dollars you already have can play a significant role in securing new dollars in the future.
Public officials may be more likely to support a new plan if they understand its conception and feel it helps to accomplish their own aims.
2. Clearly identify what you could accomplish with additional resources.
A lesson in getting new resources can be learned from the Minnesota State Arts Board, which added $12 million to its legislative appropriation between 1997 and 1999 (an increase that was almost twice its previous appropriation of around $7 million per year). As part of its strategy for securing this increase, the arts board articulated how the new funds would meet the needs of the state—needs exposed through their plan's constituent input process as well as dialogue with key partners across the state. The arts board then proposed ways to use the additional dollars within their existing goal areas, highlighting the increases in services to be provided, new communities to be reached and new levels of grant funding that could be achieved. The Minnesota example suggests that it can be useful to substantiate a new budget request with factual information that outlines what you are able to achieve with the funds you have now versus what you might be able to achieve with additional money. Below are some hypothetical examples:
Population served: "At our current budget level, grant dollars in our Arts Education Program reach 20 percent of the state's elementary school students. An additional $500,000 would allow us to reach our goal of 50 percent."
Regions reached: "Our Community Arts Program now has the funds to reach 35 of our state's 50 counties. With an additional $500,000, we could reach every county."
Portion of support: "Our general operating support awards only comprise two percent of the budgets of our state's premier symphonies, museums and performing arts centers. An additional $500,000 would allow us to increase the state portion to four percent of those organizations' budgets, and enable us to begin supporting our state's major festivals, as well."
Supply and demand: "Last year our panels identified 350 grant applications as qualified for state support, but we were only able to award 30 percent of the dollars they requested. A budget increase of $500,000 will help us reach our goal of 60 percent."
Leverage: "The $100,000 awarded in our Cultural Innovations Program last year was matched by an additional $300,000 in earned and contributed income. By increasing the state commitment to $200,000, the three-to-one match would leverage an additional $600,000 in private dollars."
As you can see, making the case in accountable terms is a habit of mind. But remember that the numbers themselves will not make a complete argument; your projections must be combined with meaningful information about the purposes and public benefits of each program.
3. Position your plan as a solution to a problem.
Planning can be used as a vehicle to unite the diverse constituencies for the arts behind a common agenda. Specific attention may be given to a plan that distributes state arts agency funds to resolve urban-rural differences, to provide access to the state's diverse racial and ethnic populations, or to offer more satisfactory resources to small and mid-sized groups as well as large arts organizations. Tackling these big issues may seem daunting, and not all states may think it wise to subject their planning process to the possibility of serious dissent. But keep in mind that a fully participatory planning process will probably require you to encounter these issues anyway, and that not resolving them may cost you time, money and support in the long run. By bringing people together to find a winning solution to a perennial problem, your agency builds consensus and increases its pool of informed advocates who have a stake in seeing your agency succeed.
4. Find creative ways to engage your legislature.
Public officials may be more likely to support a new plan if they understand its conception and feel that it helps to accomplish their own aims. So, early in your planning-to-plan process, identify a meaningful role for key legislators. Also consider ways to broaden the participation of legislators in agency activities throughout the life of the plan. Don't overlook the importance of personal involvement. For instance, a notable initiative in Maryland invited state legislators into arts classrooms during the first month of the school year. More than 80 legislators accepted the invitation, with very positive results. If you have an organized legislative caucus focused on the arts, think about ways to make its members more visible to arts constituents and your council. In a growing number of states, legislators are appointed to serve on the state arts council itself.
5. Consider requesting special funds to conduct the planning process.
Most state arts agencies fold planning into their regular administrative budget, which raises the challenge of finding enough money to continue normal operations at the same time you are planning. To avoid this tension, it may be possible to make the case for special planning funds. Admittedly, it's a hard case to make. To some people who have participated in an ineffective
planning process, the word "planning" may have negative connotations or imply the opposite of "doing." Effective planning, however, is a process of engagement during which individuals get to use fully the powers that make them human beings—visioning, making value judgments as they set priorities, thinking strategically, problem solving, pooling resources, choosing roles, reviewing the merit of their work, and adjusting to a changing environment. It is important, therefore, to communicate precisely about what goes on in a strategic planning process and to not let the image of a report on a shelf limit one's planning resources. Some helpful tactics might include:
Be specific about how money for planning would be used. Explain the number of constituents who can be involved, the number and kinds of activities around the state, the kind of information that can be gathered, and the quality of analysis that is required.
Communicate the reasons for planning. Cite the advantages of a strategic approach and express the benefits of planning in terms of the amount of dollars that will be more effectively spent over time.
Secure funding for selected portions of your process. Might a local foundation or university be interested in collaborating on a planning-related research project? Could you secure legislative funding for a series of public forums that involve council members, elected officials or other leaders?
6. Cultivate partners that can bring new resources to the table.
At its best, planning should strengthen your relationships with existing partners and can introduce new partners to your agency. As you identify ways for partners to become involved in helping you to achieve your goals, consider what human and financial resources—for new or existing programs—partners might offer. Money is not the primary ingredient of a successful relationship, and not all partners will bring dollars to the table. However, state arts agencies should consider resources an important topic in any collaboration dialogue. Consider a wide spectrum of possible government, nonprofit, corporate and philanthropic sources as you work to secure ideas, staff support and financial commitments. Look for areas where your goals and objectives could complement the work of a potential partner. Finally, be sure to return the favor—participate in your partners' planning processes and be willing to make reciprocal financial commitments when their goals help you advance your own.