|Member Feedback Informs NASAA Action|
This month, NASAA asked Loie Fecteau to reflect on her experience as chair of NASAA's Nominating Committee.
I had the great pleasure and privilege of serving this year as chair of NASAA's Nominating Committee. As anyone who has ever served on NomCom knows, it is a tremendous amount of work and very challenging. But it is also singularly rewarding to have such wide-ranging, in-depth conversations with state arts agency leaders and to have this annual opportunity to take the pulse of the field.
I want to thank not only my committee members but the numerous members who participated in the Nominating Committee process this year. As you know, the Nominating Committee reaches out every year to every member executive director and chair. The timing of this outreach dovetails with the work of the Planning and Budget Committee so that feedback from members can inform NASAA's annual planning process. The Nominating Committee invites input about:
- NASAA board and committee service
- ways that members used NASAA in the past year and their satisfaction with NASAA's services
- members' opinions about the most valuable things NASAA does
- suggestions about how NASAA can improve its service to state arts agencies
Thankfully, we are not a shy lot, and the feedback from this year's process yielded many thoughtful perspectives, ideas and suggestions, which I would like to share with you.
An Abundance of Riches
NASAA does not suffer from a lack of talent or enthusiasm for service to our network. Many members are interested in serving on the NASAA board, and every year the Nominating Committee has to make hard choices about the slate of board members we offer to the membership. However, having too many experienced and passionate leaders wanting to serve on your board is a problem many associations would love to have! What our committee looks for are leaders who are highly involved in their state arts agency and region, knowledgeable about NASAA, experienced relationship builders, politically connected and politically savvy, and strong and effective advocates.
The Nominating Committee also strives to achieve diversity, in all its forms. Because the NASAA board represents the entire state arts agency community, it is important to keep an eye on geographic representation. We also need to be sensitive to the balance of men and women, as well as the mix of executive directors and chairs. Increasingly, members put a high priority on cultural diversity, and have asked the board and the Nominating Committee to make a concerted effort to identify and nominate candidates who reflect our changing world. We heard that it is important to create a pipeline of potential future leaders, and to find ways to keep folks who are rotating off the board involved so that we can continue to tap their talents and skills.
What Would We Do without NASAA?
In many different ways and with many different examples, members told stories of how NASAA helped them in a pinch, gave them timely information or offered an affirming community. Members spoke at length about NASAA as the premier advocate and champion of state arts agencies. There is a real appreciation that NASAA has our backs, both in Congress and with the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA). There is strong support for the services NASAA currently provides, especially for help with strategic planning; agency reorganization; services beyond grant making; and comparative information about trends, staffing, councils, grants and budgets, to name a few. Comments included:
- "NASAA's research is the best."
- "The role of NASAA as a clearinghouse that allows SAAs [state arts agencies] to compare themselves to other states is very helpful. It's nice to know what every one else is doing, and without NASAA no one would have the time or ability to do this."
- "NASAA is the voice of states in public arts policy—from the bottom up through the White House and the NEA. If NASAA wasn't there, there'd be a huge hole in shaping public support for the arts."
- "The most valuable service is being SAAs' eyes, ears and voice in D.C. It's hugely important to have current reliable information from the nation's capital. I was able to answer questions about sequestration and the NEA only with the knowledge and information passed on from NASAA."
Members also made good suggestions for improvement. We heard that NASAA should do a better job of reaching out to every state; that newcomers to our field, both staff and appointed leaders, need extra help in getting started and in feeling connected to our peer organization; and, yes, we need to do much more with social media. You'll see these and other items reflected in the 2014 Action Plan that the Planning and Budget Committee will offer for your consideration this fall.
Our Place in the World
In addition to the nominations and planning feedback, the conversations that took place with members offered a good occasion for dialogue and reflection. Members posed some important questions, such as:
- Does attaching ourselves to an economic agenda enhance or diminish our missions?
- If we were creating state arts agencies today, what would they look like?
- Where does our real political influence lie? What would it take for the arts to be embraced as a truly essential role for government?
- What is our real return on investment? Is it about dollars and cents, or something more profound?
I've been thinking a lot about these questions, and I expect you are, too. NASAA is an excellent resource to help state arts agencies deal with these issues, today, and as we head into the future. So thanks again to my colleagues on the Nominating Committee and to those of you who participated in this process. Thanks also to everyone who participates in NASAA as a member—when you use NASAA services, attend a conference, tell us about a problem or a solution you have, make a donation, serve on a committee or task force, you contribute to the strength and knowledge of the whole field. Be on the lookout for a report from the Nominating Committee in September. I look forward to seeing many of you in Jackson, Wyoming, in October!