A Well-Timed Strategic Plan for the Mississippi Arts Commission
The Client's Perspective
“We partnered with Arthur Alley to lead us through a strategic planning process during what turned out to be a critical time for the agency. Despite an unexpected change in leadership mid-way through the contract, our consultants kept the process on track —and managed to deliver the final plan for us well within our designated timeline. Not only did they collect data from multiple stakeholders across the state, but they then helped us process that information effectively, so that our new plan is data-driven, with as much buy-in as possible from those we work to serve.”
Chair of the Strategic Planning Committee
About the Mississippi Arts Commission.
The Mississippi Arts Commission (MAC) was established in 1968 by the Mississippi Legislature as the official grants-making and service agency for the arts in the state. MAC provides financial and technical assistance for arts programming to arts organizations, educational institutions and individual artists throughout Mississippi. Funded annually by the legislature, the National Endowment for the Arts and private funds, MAC uses this support to play a critical role in the creative sector, providing for the inclusion of all citizens in diverse artistic experiences, tying the arts to economic development through partnerships and collaborations, and providing leadership in cultural policies. In addition, MAC is the public agency that serves as a catalyst for private support of the arts through fostering networks of local leaders, artists of all disciplines, arts volunteers and patrons, leading the way in training arts educators through its Whole Schools initiative, providing training in arts management, and promoting public awareness of the importance of the arts in community life.
Every five years, The Mississippi Arts Commission reviews its mission, guiding principles, and goals.
In early 2022, Arthur Alley Associated was engaged to lead the process to create the next strategic plan. MAC, as it’s affectionately known, is a state agency with a dynamic, experienced staff and an active, involved board of commissioners appointed by the Governor. Since the current plan was due to sunset at the end of 2022, the agency required the new plan to be adopted by the Commission and ready to implement as the new year 2023 began. Arthur Alley presented an aggressive work plan in February that anticipated and met these deadlines.
A strategic plan needs stakeholder ownership to succeed.
Arthur Alley presented a workplan and timeline in February and the Commission appointed a Strategic Planning Committee comprised of four commissioners and three staff members, including the executive director. This group proved to have just the right mix of skills and perspectives for the job and were fully engaged throughout. At the next quarterly meeting of the Commission, Arthur Alley consultants led the group in a session to review its Mission & Vision. New statements were drafted and refined over the next several months.
As a state agency, it was important for MAC to check in with stakeholders and listen to them in a variety of ways. Public listening sessions at arts sites in all four Congressional districts, plus a survey sent to the full e-mailing list of the agency and some individual interviews, showed the public that MAC truly wanted to hear the perspective of artists and patrons and organizations and diverse audiences. This approach informed the plan in a meaningful way and has already shown benefits in MAC’s statewide relationships.
A comprehensive review of documents with the longtime staffer then serving as interim Executive Director led to a chart of grant recipients over the last 5 years showing distribution of dollars around the state, which was eye-opening for some commissioners.
The staff of MAC, experienced in setting goals and measurable objectives, shared their FY21 – 23 Work Plan used internally to guide their operations under their current plan. Arthur Alley used this as a touch point or reality check as the committee worked to identify major goals.
Leadership changes created unforeseen obstacles.
To the credit of the staff and Commissioners, the unexpected and untimely death of the Commission Chair as the planning process began did not derail it. The incoming Chair quickly stepped up to provide leadership, and the project continued apace. Then, shortly after the round of public meetings were held around the state, the Executive Director announced her departure. Again, the second in command, a longtime state employee with deep knowledge of the agency and its work, expertly and effectively took on the role of interim director. Completing a new strategic plan without the input of a new leader may not be advisable for many organizations. In this case, MAC had succession plans in place and the assistance of Arthur Alley consultants, enabling the agency to continue its work and further planning without interruption.
The Result: a strategic, workable plan to guide the next 5 years of impact.
The Commission adopted the new plan right on time with a unanimous vote at its January 2023 quarterly meeting and welcomed its new Executive Director a month later. The plan – concise, thoroughly considered, and informed by multiple stakeholders – is ready to be published. The final product will be, appropriately designed by the arts agency itself. Arthur Alley briefed the new Executive Director prior to his first board meeting and followed up with a meeting on metrics, which the staff will continue to define for its internal use. The Mississippi Arts Commission continues its service to the people of Mississippi with a roadmap for success.
Together, Arthur Alley’s team of consultants bring more than 100 years of proven, successful fundraising experience to the table.
From coaching volunteers, major gift and planned gift solicitation, grant writing, and fund development achievement, Arthur Alley remains committed to our client’s success.