Pittsburgh Emerging Arts Leaders Network

Connecting emerging arts managers with skill-building and leadership development resources.

Of Resolutions and Budgets

When we were brainstorming ideas for blog posts, I thought of bringing together New Year’s Resolutions and operating budgets – thinking of ways they differ and ways they are similar.  I’ve never been one to really get into resolutions for myself, but I’ve been thinking a lot about the expectations, frustrations, confidence, doubt, and self-belief that many people put into their resolutions – because those words and ideas came up a lot for me while drafting an operating budget for the first time this year.


It is possible to think of the budget as a resolution: this is the way we’re going to try to do things for the next twelve months.  We will make x amount of earned income (or floss every day).  We will review the numbers after x weeks, and see how far we are from our goal (whether that’s ticket sales or daily exercise taken).   Our focus for this year is to grow this audience or that foundation relationship, to strengthen these institutional muscles, to get healthier as an organization.  Of course, the health of an organization has a much more intimate relationship with its operating budget than the faithful adherence to an individual’s new year’s resolutions can have on the well-being of the individual (depends on the resolution, I expect).  Being way off track in the budget world can lead to serious repercussions of which we are all more than aware.


For kicks, though, I wanted to see how far I could stretch this analogy.  A quick dalliance with the google-machine led me to this article which (through an admittedly dubious reference to ‘a study’) details the top ten personal resolutions for 2013 (for the UK, granted, but bear with me here).  Here they are (no surprise in the bunch) with my comments about how they’d translate over to Arts Budget Land in italics below:


1. Save more money – 31%

well, that goes without saying! If your office hasn’t switched to the cheap toilet paper and the cheaper printer paper, it’s time!  And put on a sweater, young man!

2. Get out of debt – 22%

ditto, #1.  Big priority.

3. Get fit/lose weight – 18%

if we think of this as ‘which programs need to be streamlined’ or ‘is that ad buy really worth it?’, then yes!  getting leaner and meaner is part of the game.

4. Change job/career – 16%

okay maybe this parallel doesn’t quite fit.   We’re here because we want to be here.

5. Quite smoking – 13%


6. Give up alcohol – 11%

double hrm.

7. Spend less time working – 9%

parallel losing steam here for sure.   I mean – we could certainly use a conversation about work/life balance in the arts, but that’s another blog post.

8. Spend more time with family/friends – 7%

and … parallel gone.   Is it stretching a bit to say that this could be ‘spend more time collaborating with other artists whose work we enjoy?’  Could be.

9. Give up chocolate – 6%


what, where was I?

10.  Move house – 2%

and – our parallel is back!  Who wants a bigger, shinier, more technologically up-to-date performance or exhibition space?  Get in line!


Okay, so maybe not quite as taut an analogy as I had hoped.  Still – food for thought.


One New Year’s tradition that I do enjoy partaking in has to do with choosing a theme word for the year – a word that helps one feel alive to possibility and positivity.  It does take me a few days each year to choose a word, but once I get it right, it’s really right.  This year, I decided to also think of a word for my organization – one that incorporated both the ways we want to grow, the tough stuff we know we need to learn, and the priorities we need to keep in mind.  I’m still searching though.  Any ideas?



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