Beating the Drum for Strategic Planning


Does strategic planning still matter?

It does matter, for reasons large and small. Taking time to create a strategic plan is time well spent and brings added benefits of team building, community engagement, and donor development.

There is no one-size fits all for a strategic planning process. When do you want the plan to be finished and how much time do you want to devote to the planning process? Do you want to expedite a plan, dig in deep, or meet somewhere in the middle? Why do you want a planning process and what do you hope the process will accomplish, other than the plan itself?

Here is why we feel Strategic Planning is important for all organizations, including small to medium size museums and nonprofit destinations.

FREE DOWNLOAD – Why Embark on a Strategic Planning Process.

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Monday, September 10th, 2018 planning Comments Off on Beating the Drum for Strategic Planning

Read a Recent Keynote Address by JMA’s Dr. John Fleming

john_flemingDr. John Fleming recently gave the keynote address at the Association of African American Museums’ Annual Meeting held August 8-10 in Charlotte, North Carolina. His remarks covered the history and rise of African American slots Museums, philanthropy and funding and the future.  We would like to share John’s address with you and are making a copy available on our website.

Download a PDF copy of Dr. John Fleming’s Keynote Address here.

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Monday, November 18th, 2013 museums, planning Comments Off on Read a Recent Keynote Address by JMA’s Dr. John Fleming

Is One Super Hero Enough?

Superman just turned 75. The Cleveland Plain Dealer reported that he first appeared in a 1938 ten-cent Action Comic book. The cover bore the man dressed in a “circus outfit” lifting a car. Recently that ten-cent comic sold for $1.2 million! Two men from the Glenville area of Cleveland, Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, had developed the idea for superman five years earlier while in high school.


Superman leaps tall buildings with a single bound, saves victims who are in perilous circumstances, lifts the heaviest things on Earth, and is always on the right side of the law/issue.

From comic books to television to movies – few people know that Superman is from Cleveland! A new Superman exhibit installed at Cleveland Hopkins International Airport hopes to remedy that situation. And, the new Superman movie keeps the brand alive and acquaints new generations with the powerful and wise hero.

Who is the Superman or Superwoman at your institution? Do you have just one? Is there one person doing the heavy lifting and saving the day? Does this person gather in the power and refuse to share thereby minimizing the contributions that individual board members, volunteers or staff can make? Or, is a Founder of your organization refusing to let go and the Board and others acquiesce again and again? Is there one Super Hero because no one else is capable or willing to participate or contribute?

Is one Super Hero enough to bring you the success you desire?

is-one-superhero-enough-2Who does what, when, can be answered with good planning, good hiring, purposeful Board recruitment and training, and ongoing attention to not only how fast you are flying but in which direction.

If there is a Superman or Superwoman issue at your institution and you want to discuss how to assess its long term prospects for institutional growth and success, let us know. Organizational efficiency audits, development direction, marketing assessments, strategic planning, and synergy evaluations – all can help to make a family of Super Heroes for your museum and nonprofit destination.

* Take the So You Think You Know Superman quiz from the Plain Dealer. Let me know your score. Have fun!

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Monday, August 12th, 2013 nonprofits, planning Comments Off on Is One Super Hero Enough?

Flying Fast But In The Right Direction?


Maybe doing more with less isn”t the answer. Maybe the answer is doing less with less.

Like Superman, are you flying in the right direction? A Strategic Plan is still a valuable compass to assist your stakeholders, donors, staff, and heroes who care and support your mission. Learn why a Strategic Plan can be useful.


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Wednesday, July 10th, 2013 nonprofits, planning Comments Off on Flying Fast But In The Right Direction?

Is Your Facility a Temple or a Forum?

Sometimes museums feel like they are stuck between a rock and a hard place. Some expectations exist that the museum will find solutions for engaging every segment of its overall audience, and that if this is not happening, it is failing. Does this sound like an institution you know and love?

Recently I heard Rick West give the keynote address at the Western Museums Association’s annual conference in Palm Springs, California. In 1990, Rick became the founding director of the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI) in Washington, D.C. During his 18-year tenure, he oversaw its successful development and growth as the leading institution dedicated to the representation and interpretation of the indigenous cultures of the Western Hemisphere.

Rick is the designated President and CEO of the Autry National Center in Los Angeles. During his keynote address a few weeks ago, Rick reminded us that for decades the museum community has grappled with and debated the question of whether museums are temples or forums. A guiding principal for NMAI’s development was the idea that museums are departure points for deep and wide discussion. He went on to report that traditional museum paradigms were set aside in planning this magnificent museum and that it has become a living presentation of the first person voices of Native Peoples.

Rick received a standing ovation that morning, and the question about temple or forum is still a valid question for today.

What does your museum, nature center, historic home, park or children’s museum have as its primary mission and direction? It is a temple or a forum? Why do you exist and how have you defined your audiences? Are you doing too much of everything? Do you think you can find a niche that will make your museum more focused and effective? Will your leadership allow you to take one or two paths instead of getting lost in the woods?

There is really no need to apologize for a focused direction. Maybe your institution is both Temple and Forum, and if so, how does that work for you? Do you have a plan to embrace both processes/identities and serve with excellence?

Tackling tough questions can net huge rewards. Developing organizational strategies, creating synergy between programming and donor development, enhancing community relations and creating stronger visitor experiences that cultivate word of mouth advertising – these are some of the services provided by Jan McKay & Associates.

Let me know if we can help. Feel free to call me to discuss your needs. Or, explore our capabilities at

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Tuesday, November 20th, 2012 marketing, museums, planning Comments Off on Is Your Facility a Temple or a Forum?

It’s All About the “P” Words

The swirl of activity at any institution can make it difficult to step back and objectively assess the depth and quality of your educational and public programming. What’s more, there may be little time to plan and evaluate how programming and public relations can be synergistic, affecting your development programs and public image.

Strategic Planning aside, sometimes it just makes sense to take a look at key relationship-driven functions. A Programming and Public Relations Audit can benefit your institution by:

  • Motivating staff
  • Establishing priorities when money is tight
  • Strengthening educational programming
  • Getting the most out of your public programs
  • Evaluate volunteer dimensions and &#8221Angelia also alluded towards the suggested resort the best casino online legislation that'll be presented in April, which, whether it passes, could create land-based casinos to finally enter an industry that may potentially worth as much as $10 billion. effectiveness
  • Creating new relationships between public relations and programming
  • Finding ways to gauge satisfaction of your audiences
  • Solidify public engagement in your culture
  • Motivate your Board toward improved community outreach

A Programming and Public Relations Assessment takes place in a concentrated time frame and the goals for each Assessment Project are defined by you and the Associates at Jan McKay & Associates.

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Friday, May 20th, 2011 planning, public relations Comments Off on It’s All About the “P” Words

How to Hang a Gallery Type Exhibit

By Varin Acevedo

You have a space and you have a lot of artwork. Your job is to hang it, but where do you start? First, consider how you would like the show to be organized. There are several types of ways to organize.  You can arrange things chronologically or thematically or by the artist. Or consider organizing by the medium used, such as all pencil drawings to be exhibited in one section and all the oil paintings go in another. There are many different methods of organization depending on the type of exhibit you have. Start with this decision.

When you have decided how you want to organize the exhibit, you can go around the perimeter and lean the art against the wall at the location you wish to hang it, or lay flat on the floor if there is concern about scratching the frame. Leave a comfortable space between artwork for the labels. This process gives you a chance to see if you have enough room and to make adjustments accordingly.

Now that you know where you will hang each piece, you have to determine how high. Imagine a line going horizontally around the room that is 60” High. This is your centerline. All of the pictures will be hung so that the center of the artwork, midway between the top of the frame and the bottom will be at 60” height. 60” is a comfortable eye level height for the average adult visitor. If there are going to be many children visitors, it might be a good idea to lower it a few inches.

Stacked pieces are a little more complicated. Two or more stacked pieces will be placed so that the top edge of the piece on top and the bottom edge of the lowest piece, including the spaces between will be considered one piece and that will be centered on the 60” centerline. One method is to lay the stacked pieces on the floor with the appropriate space between, measure the height of the total then divide it by two.  The bottom edge of the lower piece would then be below the 60” centerline that amount, and the top of the upper piece would be above the centerline that amount. It is better if stacked art is smaller, as you do not want anything too high, or too low. Stacked pieces are usually hung so that they are vertically centered also.

A helpful tool is to hang a washer on a piece of string and tie a knot at 60” from the bottom of the washer to the knot. This, with a piece of blue painters tape will make it easy to establish the height of the centerline as you go around the room. It is also useful for determining a vertical centerline for stacked pictures as it will always hang.

The next task would be lighting. In an ideal situation, you will want to light from several angles so that someone standing directly in front of the art will not creating a shadow on it. You also want to be aware of glare and hot spots, where one piece of art has noticeably more light than another. It is a tedious process, but lighting is what gives an exhibit its sense of drama and will lend artwork that transcendent glow.

The last item is labels. They should be placed after the lighting so that you can be sure they are not placed in a shadow. It is good to position them consistently, as much as possible. An example of this would be to place them at the bottom right hand lower corner of the art throughout the exhibit. The text on labels is usually small, so you don’t want them too far from the 60” eye level we established. If they are too low they will be hard to read without backing up and will be blocked by anyone standing in front of the art. If it is too high, it will be difficult for older visitors with bi-focal type of glasses to read or for children.

There are no exact rules for installing an exhibit, it is an art not a science, but if you have followed these instructions you will have a gallery that has a purposeful sense of orderly tranquility and will encourage the visitor to appreciate the artwork, which is after all, the main goal.

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Wednesday, September 15th, 2010 planning Comments Off on How to Hang a Gallery Type Exhibit


This summer an abundance of wonderful experiences are being offered to our customers at cultural nonprofit destinations around the country. A survey of these offerings in my own back yard finds that museums, science centers, performing art groups, history centers, cultural centers, botanical gardens, parks, nature centers and libraries are consistently turning out high quality experiences of learning and enjoyment. The opportunities for our communities are almost dizzying in their creativity, accessibility and diversity. Still, we often wonder how to get more “people through the doors.” And we wonder how we can do MORE for our visitors and guests and those who are what I call, “partakers” of our products/activities/programs or whatever you want to call them.

These questions – how to reach more people, do MORE and do it BETTER – are important to embrace. They are the right questions to ask today, and the fact that you ask them at all, says a lot about your organization.

I recently met with a Museum Director who lives in another world. He has no financial worries, just one patron who underwrites the organization, a solid and stable staff with no changes over more than a decade, no plans or pressure to connect with schools, and no worries about attendance because it does not really matter to the organization if people come or don’t come to see the art. He lives off of This marketplace already needs gaming sites to become mobile compatible and Bodog Canada’s online is among the first to provide this type of service. an endowment and his museum offers free admission. His staff members do not strive to put new programming together, he does not have committees to deal with, and he does no special event fund raising. Did I mention that he has a nice travel budget? It was almost an unearthly experience to talk with him!

After I left his office and came down to reality (and the freeway) I realized that while his museum sounds like a dream, especially during this recession, it is far better to struggle toward being exceptional then to bask in being good.

I like the struggle and chances are, you do too, whether you are an Executive Director, Board member, or a professional in one of the many chosen paths at nonprofit destinations.

My Associates and I have been in your shoes.

What’s more, they have navigated in the nonprofit cultural arena, parks and museums for years and they are available to help you and your organization. For a complete list of the Senior Associates of Jan McKay & Associates go to the Who’s who area.

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Wednesday, September 15th, 2010 planning Comments Off on ROLLING THROUGH SUMMER

Strategic Planning. Why?

The United States is in a period of massive and rapid socio-economic change.
Demographically, we are shifting from a predominantly white, European population to one that is complex and culturally diverse.   The population is aging and people are living longer. They have less leisure time than before.  Families have changed–traditional households are no longer the norm.

Technologically, we are in the midst of an information revolution that is hard to keep up with.  Educational systems are falling apart.  We are in a recession, jobs are scarce and the economy is being restructured. The rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer.  Funding our non-profit organizations is getting much harder. Our audiences are changing and competition for them is increasing.

These changes are occurring rapidly and most cultural organizations are having trouble keeping up.  However, we must face these challenges to insure our survival.  Doing nothing is not an option.  We must seek new funding sources, become more professional in how we do things, pay more attention to our visitors’ needs, solicit public input, reach new constituencies, and see ourselves as others see us.  In short, we must change from Getting By to Getting Better.  This means resolving problems at the root cause, redesigning operations to make things work better for staff, volunteers and visitors, examine existing assumptions and challenging them by asking why we do things the way we do, and understand and respond to the needs of our audiences.

The process described above is Strategic Planning—a preplanned process undertaken by the board, staff and volunteers, with input from the community and members.  Its purpose is to (1) create a database on the institution, its audiences and environment, (2) evaluate its present organizational structure, programs and activities, and (3) position the institution for change.

Strategic Planning seeks to answer the questions: Where have we been? Where are we now?  Where do we want to be in 5 or 10 years? How will we get there?  It can reaffirm the present institution, but it usually points out at least some areas that need improvement.   Strategic Planning is carefully designed and controlled.  It concentrates on problem solving and  continues even after the written document is produced.  It works because of its team approach.  The deciders, doers and audiences work together for better results.  For it to work, some rules must be in place: open communication, honesty, and mutual trust and respect for the views of others.

If you are interested in Strategic Planning for your non-profit institution, Jan McKay & Associates can guide you through the process.  If you are not sure if this is the right time, we can help you determine your readiness. Give us a call.

Dr. Jan McLean


Thursday, April 8th, 2010 planning Comments Off on Strategic Planning. Why?

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