by Jini Stolk
You have a great idea. It’s been percolating for a good while now and you’re ready to take action. Does this idea have legs? Can you accomplish it? How do you move forward? It’s time for Exploring the Feasibility.
At Creative Trust we were very careful to figure out whether our ambitious Working Capital for the Arts plans made sense for Toronto. There had been other arts sustainability programs across Canada and the U.S. We did a lot of research, spoke to a lot of people, learned as much as we could about the successes and drawbacks of these other initiatives, and thought very deeply about how to create a program uniquely suited to Toronto’s performing arts community. In the end, the success of our 9-year $7 million Working Capital for the Arts program rested on our initial, thorough feasibility study.
The following tips are taken from the Creative Trust/Toronto Arts Foundation Open Source Took Kit Exploring the Feasibility – part of a larger initiative to share knowledge and learning from the Creative Trust experience with arts and other non-profit leaders in Toronto and beyond. Feel free to explore, borrow or adapt from it!
- Determine if there is a need. Research the field and be sure that there’s a need/desire for the work you are proposing. You don’t want to be duplicating work that another organization does well, or creating something that isn’t a high priority for your community.
- Research other models. Look at similar programs in other places. What’s worked? What hasn’t? Talk to people. Learn from them. People are your best resources.
- Begin to build a base of support. Begin outreach into your community. See if you can get people on board as potential champions, advisory committee members or even, down the line, board members. This will test your idea in the real world and help you begin to market the project.
- Decide whether your vision has legs. Is it practical? What’s the business plan? If funding is needed, do you know of any potential funders? Speak to colleagues and funders and figure out if there is financial support for your vision. Begin to make your case. Talk to the field and advocate for your project.
- Succinctly express your values and vision. Begin to articulate your specific values – the guideposts that will help you stay true to your mission. Map out your vision. What are your high-level goals? What is the ultimate change you want to make? Write this down! This will help you formulate the right model for your needs, help you keep your supporters close, help solidify your ideas and ultimately help you get needed funding.
- Outline your model. Once you know that your project is necessary and supported you can begin developing your specific methodology and model. Apply what you’ve learned from your research and adapt it to your specific situation. Make sure the model works for you, your constituents and your audience.
- Refine your model. Don’t let your first draft become set in stone. If it works, that’s great! But if you and your supporters have new ideas give yourself the freedom to refine. Always be sure to check in and make sure that the model is reaching the right people and doing what it is intended to do.
- Stick to a timeline. Determine a timeline for implementation and a launch date. Stay true to this timeline, but make sure you leave room for unanticipated events. We all know that nothing works perfectly, so give yourself space, but have that timeline always in the back of your mind – and share it with others! It will help you actually commit to fully launching your project.
- Determine your structure. What is the structure best suited to this project? Is it volunteer led? Will you need staff, an ED, a steering committee, a board, etc.? How can you put your plan into action?
- Report on your findings. Start building the case. Create a document that you can share with potential funders, board members, and advisory committee members. Make sure it articulates the genesis of the project, why your specific project/approach is needed, what your values and vision are, how your model is unique to your context, what your timeline for implementation is, how your ultimate structure and end vision will look. This document should outline all the important thinking that went into “exploring the feasibility” and will be your statement to the world. So make sure that it is well written, well designed and engaging.
- Good luck!
To learn more visit creativetrust.ca and read the full Exploring the Feasibility open source toolkit.