Welcome to the Lessons Learned Toolsite -- a comprehensive compendium of planning advice from a variety of professional arts consultants, many of whom were associated with the NEA Advancement Program of 1980 -1996. The NEA launched a new era in grantmaking when it undertook the novel task of offering management assistance in addition to grant funds. Since then, "planning" grants and consultancy programs have become a mainstay in programs of support offered by many foundations and local funding agencies aiming to sustain and advance their local and regional cultural systems.
The single most important message about planning is that THERE ARE MANY WAYS TO DO IT WELL. We have therefore attempted to present the ideas and perspectives of many planning consultants as to how to go about this task. The contributing consultants work with arts organizations in all disciplines throughout the US. Their combined knowledge and experience in planning results from their work in the field as consultants, arts administrators, writers, teachers, practicing artists, board members and theoreticians.
A number of important, common refrains thread their way through the advice that follows:
Planning for many of us is a practice, just as one might 'practice' yoga. It takes attention, energy and commitment to plan well. In fact, at its best, planning is a learning process. The practice of planning demands self-awareness, course adjustments, subtle changes in position and, at times, new attitudes.
Our guide to planning can be used as a linear map to define a complex and lengthy planning process, or in a more modular fashion to examine the various practices of planning and decide the most useful entry point for you and/or your organization. "You" might be: a staff member, Executive Director, Artistic Director, General Manger, officer or member of the Board of Directors, volunteer or consultant.
If you intend to embark on a full-fledged planning process (after reading Arlene Goldbarb's cautionary essay The Pitfalls of Planning) we recommend you read the Toolsite from start to finish and create a schedule or calendar for your planning activities.
If you aren't certain of your need to commit to a comprehensive planning process, and/or want to tune-up specific areas of capability, then feel free to visit the different chapters of the Toolsite at any one of our major entry points for:
We have called this a "toolsite" for a reason. This website intends to function as a literal cyber-toolbox from which you are invited to pick, choose, copy and download whatever is most appropriate for the planning job at hand. So, roll up your sleeves, dip into our toolbox, and build that perfect plan!
Please note: Lessons Learned: A Planning Toolsite is available only online. No hardcopy edition was produced.
Morrie Warshawski, Editor
National Endowment for the Arts · an independent federal