Despite the many challenges confronting nonprofit arts organizations, Michael Kaiser, president of the , believes the only thing most of them lack is management know-how and a well-thought-out plan for long-term success, the reports.
In his other job as president of the Kennedy Center's , a $6-million-a-year nonprofit consulting practice, Kaiser advises domestic arts groups, conducts seminars abroad, and teaches an annual month-long program for arts managers from around the globe. "We spend so much money to train singers, dancers, and painters, but we spend almost nothing to train and employ arts managers," said Kaiser, who will step down as president of the Kennedy Center in December 2014. "And as arts funding becomes more complicated, the need for these programs increases."
Kaiser, who has been called the "Turnaround King" for his role in stanching the red ink at organizations like , , the , and London's , has developed a framework he calls "The Cycle" to explain the critical interplay of art, marketing, and fundraising over time — an approach he explains in a book of the same title he co-authored with DeVos Institute director Brett Egan.
But with governments everywhere slashing funding for the arts, and very few countries able to fall back on a tradition of private arts philanthropy, Kaiser sees his arts management evangelization as an increasingly valuable commodity. "Arts institutions fail for the same reasons, everywhere," he told the Post. "You're so worried about money, instead of talking about the great exciting thing you can do, you talk about what you're going to cut. It's done with the best of intentions, but it just doesn't work."
All too aware that his message and fundraising expertise are in demand, Kaiser has become a sort of one-man adjunct to the State Department, dispensing advice and encouragement, for a price, to arts organizations large and small. "Some of these places are challenged locations," he notes. "But in each [seminar], people were piling in to learn about arts management. It's not us saying, 'Come see American art.' This is us saying, 'We think your art is important.' In my mind, it's the best form of cultural diplomacy."