Founding a Brand New Organization: An Insider’s View


Linda Marianiello, flutist and Executive Director, New Mexico Performing Arts Society (photo credit: Henry Grossman, New York, NY)

As I mentioned in the latest post in the Camino de Santiago series, much of my Camino experience provided time to reflect on the past four years in which we – Franz Vote, several Santa Fe singers, a fine artist, and I – founded the New Mexico Performing Arts Society.

And this seemed like a good time to share an insider’s view of what the journey has been like, because it is very much on my mind as we begin season 5. Needless to say, it does not escape my attention that giving birth to a new organization is another type of pilgrimage, assuming one undertakes it as a type of “calling.” What I mean by a calling is that one feels compelled to follow a certain path and to stay the course until the goal is reached.

For more on the history of NMPAS , please consult “History in the Making”, an earlier blog post about the founding of NMPAS. This post is about the hats that founders wear when a new organization comes into being.

In my case, I became Executive Director and President of the NMPAS board. It is my hope that the right person will emerge in the course of the current season to take over as board president, because this will mark the point at which separate board and staff roles can be fully realized. In the early stages, however, it is important for founders to take an active role in building the board. I am very proud of the fact that the NMPAS board works harmoniously and continues to grow in size and scope!

Currently, my responsibilities for the day-to-day running of NMPAS are quite diverse. First, in consultation with our Music Director, Franz Vote, I hire all musicians for the season. Contracting is a very important role in the organization, because we must hire the very best singers and instrumentalists in order to realize our artistic goals. This is a very time-consuming role, because professional musicians in New Mexico are busy people, and one must always juggle rehearsal times around their other commitments.

As Executive Director, I must also be very proactive in all aspects of marketing, such as writing press releases, compiling programs, interfacing with the media, posting and monitoring ticket sales on our ticket vendor’s website, and ensuring that all of our concerts are posted on the relevant arts calendars. NMPAS has been fortunate to have many out-of-town visitors at our concerts, and we take our role as a supporter of tourism in northern New Mexico very seriously. We are, indeed, part of the engine that drives tourism in our state. As you know, residents of northern New Mexico also enjoy a higher quality of life when the arts flourish.

This season we are stepping up our social media presence. One of our new board members, Esther Moses Bergh, has taken a leading role in managing the NMPAS Facebook page. And our first student intern, Sammi Gilbert, is also helping us to explore ways to link our Facebook page, website and blog for maximum outreach to an entirely new audience. This is an exciting development.

Since I did not come to non-profit work from an administrative perspective, learning how to serve as Executive Director of NMPAS has involved a lot of continuing education. In the course of the past 4 years, I have attended countless workshops on various aspects of non-profit governance. The resources available to non-profit leaders, especially in Santa Fe and Albuquerque, are considerable. I would say that, without these resources, we probably would not be where we are today. Special thanks go to SCORE Santa Fe, The Santa Fe Community Foundation, the Santa Fe Arts Commission, and the Center for Non-Profit Excellence at the United Way of Albuquerque for providing these workshops and networking opportunities.

Perhaps my most important role lies in the area of fundraising. One SCORE Santa Fe consultant recently told me that the main purpose of staffs and boards today is to raise funds that enable organizations like ours to fulfill their mission. I also see these roles as requiring us to be incredibly frugal in utilizing funds donated to NMPAS. Yet there are fixed costs involved in running any non-profit, and we depend on our donors to provide the needed funding: artist fees, insurance, marketing, and outside contracting of various kinds.

Our two-person staff has worked tirelessly for four years on a volunteer basis to bring NMPAS to where it is today. We have done so gladly, and the lion’s share of responsibility has fallen to us in these early stages. We are now at the point where our staff needs to work full-time in order for NMPAS to reach its potential. This, in turn, means that funds must be raised to begin to compensate staff for their time.

So I will be asking everyone who loves NMPAS to please support the organization with a donation, by attending our events, and through volunteering their time. Lately, I’ve been thinking that, if everyone on our mailing list contributed to the Annual Fund and/or became a series sponsor, we would already have raised enough money to fund our entire 2016-2017 season! What a lovely thought that is.





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