One of the frustrations of being a consultant is that one doesn't have control over the implementation of the plans you develop. Several times in my consulting career I have worked hard on creating plans for an organization only to see them sit on the shelf while the organization struggled. That is one of the reasons I have never been able to be a full-time consultant for very long.
Sometimes it even makes one question whether or not planning really does make a difference.
And then comes along a client like the National YoungArts Foundation.
Eighteen months ago, I was approached by the great Lin Arison about helping the organization she founded with her late husband, Ted, about helping YoungArts with its planning. I then met Paul Lehr who had recently become the organization's chief executive. Paul came with enthusiasm, energy and ideas to this organization that gives high school-age aspiring artists life-changing experiences: master classes with Mikhail Baryshnikov, Plácido Domingo, Frank Gehry and Bill T. Jones just to name a few of the luminaries who give their time and expertise to inspiring and shaping the next generation of American artists.
It doesn't take long to fall in love with the mission of YoungArts but for all the organization has achieved (former YoungArtists are people like Desmond Richardson, Vanessa Williams, Viola Davis) it wasn't functioning like a world-class arts institution. Programming was not substantial enough, visibility was relatively low and too few donors had joined the YoungArts family.
I helped Paul, Lin and the board and staff members of YoungArts to craft a plan to bolster its programming, visibility and funding. The plan was completed exactly one year ago and presented to the board.
To say YoungArts is a different organization today is a great understatement. Paul took the plan and ran with it, creating a new organization with dizzying speed.
A few accomplishments:
YoungArts recently purchased the historic Bacardi Building in downtown Miami and Frank Gehry is leading a master planning exercise to turn it into a great arts education campus. When the new campus is completed there will be year-long performance and learning opportunities for YoungArts students and graduates.
New programs in Miami, New York City and Los Angeles have been created.
Visibility has increased substantially as the result of a major institutional marketing campaign; for example, The New York Times ran a major profile of the organization. For those who are skeptical that this kind of marketing can have a major impact, applications for the YoungArts program have almost doubled to 10,000 from one year to the next.
Fundraising has increased 66 percent in one year, with a high percentage of first time donors.
The HBO series Master Class, a major YoungArts project, is now entering the curricula in schools across the nation.
Paul and his small staff have done wonders in a very short amount of time -- testament to their passion and hard work.
But it is also testament to the power of planning -- when the plan is actually implemented.