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Story 11: Learning to Lead

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Sustainability

Written by Mike Spock

Although our pace of change could be blindingly fast, the fact that most of us learned our craft and stayed at the museum for many years made a huge difference in our stability, especially when we looked back to see progress. We took the time to build a common culture.

In communities like Boston, where governments are not the primary source for subsidizing cultural organizations, museums are dependent on both earned income (admissions, fees, sales, contracts, participant memberships) and contributed income (gifts, grants, endowments). For clients who can't afford the admission fees, strategies must be found to lower the barriers and compensate for economic access problems.

The museum was very good at finding new sources of income or new ways of saving money. But these sources and savings were inevitably absorbed by inflation and the ends of each soft money grant. So at the beginning of the next budget cycle we had to always find yet a new source of savings and/or income to balance the budget.

Part of our stability could be attributed to the project directors' and managers' use of sophisticated financial tools and their commitment to transparency. This combination allowed them to manage their budgets successfully while admitting and asking for help when the numbers told them a project was in trouble. Program officers and auditors could relax, always knowing where they stood with us. There would be no surprises!

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