Friday, December 14, 2012

Thank You! and you and you and you!

Third topic: Thank your mentor.

Just as I have a multitude of turning points, I have many folks who have served as mentors at one point or another. A few of the people who have helped shape the path in my arts admin career, in no particular order:

  • Paul Frellick: I've worked with Paul longer than I have with anyone else. Ever. He's been incredibly patient with me more times than I can count. Many of my mistakes led to major administrative changes at the theater (silver lining, right?) and he saw enough potential in me to keep bringing me back for more work. He's been quietly supportive about my personal and career growth. 
  • Elizabeth Dell-Jones: I'm going waaayy back now, but Ms. Dell-Jones was my art teacher my senior year in high school, and she was one of the first adults to allow me--encourage, in fact--to take the lead on a project and turn an idea (for a student-made literary magazine) into reality. Her belief in me as a leader charged my self-confidence. 
  • Liz Droessler: Liz can't help but serve as a mentor to young people: for her day job, she works with teachers and students county-wide. She's probably single-handidly responsible for more arts careers than just about anyone else. She's been a resource and angel and a calming voice of reason and support when I needed it most. 
  • Ramona Baker: new to the lineup, I've only known Ramona for a year and a half now. I cannot imagine my future without her patience, her skill at listening and asking the right questions, and her enveloping hugs. "What would Ramona say?" is a question I ask myself a lot these days.

I realized today that I'm at a point where I need the accountability of a mentorship. I've learned A LOT over this past year, and I want to make sure I practice and master some of these new skills. Having a mentor will help me put a follow-up plan into place and make 2013 the Year of Doing. I have a few people in mind. We'll see what happens.

Who do you consider your mentors?

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

ESTJ's Unite! Together, by next week, with our calendars.

Second topic: your Myers-Briggs personality type and impact on career

It came as no surprise to anyone the day I found out I was an ESTJ. Extrovert. Sensing. Thinking. Judging. 

From Wikipedia's entry:

  • E – Extraversion preferred to introversion: ESTJs often feel motivated by their interaction with people. They tend to enjoy a wide circle of acquaintances, and they gain energy in social situations (whereas introverts expend energy).[6]
  • S – Sensing preferred to intuition: ESTJs tend to be more concrete than abstract. They focus their attention on the details rather than the big picture, and on immediate realities rather than future possibilities.[7]
  • T – Thinking preferred to feeling: ESTJs tend to value objective criteria above personal preference. When making decisions, they generally give more weight to logic than to social considerations.[8]
  • J – Judgment preferred to perception: ESTJs tend to plan their activities and make decisions early. They derive a sense of control through predictability.

The MB scores are based on preferences, things you do or like based on choices repeated throughout your life. You can have a heavy preference in one area or have little preference overall and face each situation differently. I am an extreme E and J, scoring on the far end for both of these attributes. My S and T preferences, though, are closer to the middle; I could easily be classified an NF depending on the questions. 

Being an ESTJ has been a boon in my career, from my college days of journalism to retail management to my current arts administration position.

Extrovert: I adore being around people (remind me to tell you the story of being house-bound one winter due to an ice storm) and having a full house at the theater makes me giddy with energy. Talking to prospective audience members, engaging donors about their desires, and building relationships with my actors, designers, and directors are some of the most fulfilling parts of my job. 

Sensing: One of those areas where I vacillate between the two, and, honestly, sometimes it's draining, because, combined, it leads to perfectionism and an almost constant "I'll do it myself" attitude. Project management--be it designing a show, planning a fundraising campaign, or stewarding donors--is fun for me. I like making lists and checking off items when they're finished. But I also enjoy connecting the puzzle pieces to see a bigger picture and to break a dream out into the steps needed to make it reality. 

Thinking: The other area where I can go either way. I do tend to make decisions based more on logic, but I also try to keep in mind other's preferences, when applicable. Learning how to use various decision-making and logic-model tools has been fun when approaching long-term planning or fundraising issues. But I tend to listen to my instinct when it comes to individuals, especially when those decisions concern those closest to me. 

Judgment: I am a J, through and through. "Spontaneous" to me means "planned a week ahead". "ASAP" is a four-letter word in my book. I like to think I'm mature enough to roll with the punches, but I work at my best when I have a plan, goal, and deadline. Writing budgets, planning development appeals, and doing group projects all go smoother for me with more time. 

I love arts administration and design because they allow me to play to all my strengths. What's your Myers-Briggs Type? Are you playing to your preferences? 

Monday, December 10, 2012

You could go left. Or you could go right.

Now that the semester is (almost) over and final papers are (mostly) done and I have (a tad) more free time, I thought I'd tackle NaBloPoMo: National Blog Post Month. Yes, I realize that it technically happened in November, but that month turned into an insanely jam-packed time for me and trying to fit in a daily post into everything else was just not going to happen. My hat is off to those who did, and do, on a regular basis.

I'm also grateful that Rosetta Thurman linked to the BlogHer list of writing prompts for NaBloPoMo. While I could blather for thirty days on my own, this list provides boundaries for me within which to write. And, as my  professor Greg Lucas likes to point out at every opportunity, boundaries make for a better story.

Sewing for a production, c. 1930s / by Sam Hood

On to the first topic: Share your professional "aha moment".

My goodness, which one? Would you like me to work backwards or forwards? Do you have a few days and lots of coffee? How about I bullet point some, in no particular order:
  • deciding arts administration was the career for me, after running a small theater for three years and wearing all the administrative hats;
  • seeing "Falsettos" at the local community theater and having my world turned upside down through live theater and knowing I wanted to share that feeling with others;
  • stepping out of corporate retail management and into nonprofit arts administration in order to be a mother;
  • writing my women-in-theater manifesto, meeting Sylvia who shared my views on supporting local women in the field, and producing -dash-, which brought the conversation about local quality opportunities for women in theater out into the open;
  • applying to graduate school for a degree in arts administration and delightfully discovering a deeper joy in my chosen field.
Some of these moments are culminations, other are beginning points for work still-to-be-done. A couple of them have rather dramatic background stories. But they're all a-ha moments for me, that is, specific turning points on the path that brought me here today.

Can you look back at your path and see the turns? What were your deciding moments? 

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Reading List: Meaning in Life & Why It Matters

"Rather, what is valuable is that one's life be actively engaged in projects that give rise to this feeling [a high quality pleasure], when the projects in question can be seen to have a certain kind of objective worth."

I stumbled upon this book by complete accident. I don't normally go browsing through the moral philosophy* section in my major university research library, but this author happens to be a patron of ours, and I happened across it in the course of doing some other research, so I thought I'd pick it up. I was pleasantly surprised to hear so many of the arguments we arts folk make about why the arts are "meaningful" to a person.

Wolf begins by positing that "meaning" exists somewhere between "morality" and "happiness", the normal two reasons for explaining why we humans do the things we do. Those two options still represent the reasons we do many things (pay taxes, have sex), but Wolf argues that the reason we do most things--those things that we enjoy doing and that are seen as things upon which it is valuable to spend time--is how we find meaning in our life.

I immediately seized upon the correlation between her theory and how we so often advocate for the arts, in education, in public, in everyday life. For artists, creating art is both subjective--we enjoy doing it--and objective--others may find it enjoyable, satisfying, illuminating, or any of a host of other personal-affecting adjectives. Without the former, the subjectivity, the art becomes simply a job, a way of trading our time/energy for (one hopes) the resources necessary to live. But without the latter, the objectivity, our art becomes nothing more than self-referential, a waste of a resource that could serve to better someone's condition on this earth. Artists have long held the responsibility of commenting on society through a lens which provides both questions and clarity. Abdicating this responsibility would void the artist's "meaning" to life.

As arts advocates, it is easy to fall back on the subjective portion of creating art. After all, everyone has the "right to pursue happiness"! What we need to articulate, though, is the objective portion, that art creates meaning not only for the artist, but for everyone in the community.

*If you happen to be a fan of moral philosophy, this treatise has references in it to other authors and philosophical arguments. Me, I know most of my philosophers from growing up with Monty Python.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Reading list: Great by Choice

From the blurb: "Why do some companies thrive in uncertainty, even chaos, and others do not?"

Sounds an awful lot like the np arts orgs world, doesn't it? Why is it some theaters succeed, balancing budgets, retaining audiences, basking in critical acclaim? While others stumble along, maybe having a hit or two, always wondering if people can be paid, eventually shuttering rather than enduring more stress?

Collins doesn't set out to write about our world (unfortunately. Mr. Collins, if you ever do, please call me to be on your research team.) but his key findings--in all of his books--apply not only to the publicly traded for-profit corporations he studies but to the myriad sized and structured art centered, community building, nonprofit arts organizations we love.

The companies he looks at in GbC all have the same traits: their leaders have Level 5 ambition; they have empirical creativity AND fanatic discipline AND productive paranoia; they stick with a SMaC (Specific, Methodical, and Consistent) recipe; and manage their luck, both bad and good. I'm sure if we looked at our arts orgs, the ones that have survived turmoil and grown to greatness, we would find the same principles to be true.

The point I want to make here is how can we use these principles in our own organizations now that our world of funding and audiences, engagement and advocacy, has changed from a "build it and they will come" to "throw everything at the wall and see what sticks".

To examine each point in turn would be a good blog series, but the one that strikes me as most interesting today is the SMaC recipe. For all our talk about adherence to mission statements and blind fanaticism to value propositions, we do not, as a rule, have a Specific, Methodical, and Consistent recipe for achieving our missions. This recipe should be based on both what works and should be repeated over and over again, what doesn't work and should never be done, and have built in what our success metrics are based on. There is room for amendments, but only with empirical evidence that such amendments are necessary and beneficial.

Each arts org will have a different recipe, certainly. My point is not to try to argue what those recipes should look like, but that each organization should have one. The leadership needs to sit down and hammer out what their SMaC recipe is, as they have seen produce results and differentiate themselves in the market. This is not doing strategic planning for the next 3-5 years of projects and presentations. This is not specific art, marketing, or development plans per se. This is a statement of what the organization will do methodically forever in order to achieve its goals (of course, there is a presupposition the org knows what those are).

In our time of trouble, of downsizing, right-sizing, cutbacks, and closures, figuring out how to consistently move forward means finding a business recipe and sticking to it.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

A marketer and a researcher walk into a bar...

Me and Scott. The awesome level in this
room was off the charts.
This past week I've been able to meet two of my new favorite authors/speakers locally: Richard Evans, of EmcArts, and Scott Stratten, of Unmarketing. I have been reading their information for around a year now and was ecstatic at the opportunity to meet them both on my home turf.

While they would likely find they have a lot in common if they sat down and talked it out, at first glance it doesn't appear that way: one is a researcher in the arts field, the other a marketer. However, both of them share key insights that apply to the new work of engaging customers.

1. Active Participation
Richard talked about how marketing for innovative arts organizations is about engaging active participants with both the process and product of art. Scott makes the point that businesses don't define their brands, customers do. In both instances, it's about the value the customer places on our organizations that matter. What we need to do is help their estimation go up by being partners, not lecturers.

2. Hire the Right People
Innovative arts organizations are shifting their hiring processes away from specialized training to art-centered workers who thrive in teams. Scott posits: "I'd rather hire people who are passionate about service and train them how to do their job." (May I throw in one of the _Good to Great_ maxims here? Get the Right People on the Bus. I <3 Jim Collins. He's on my "meet one day" list, too.) We can't teach passion. We can't teach people skills. Sure, we can refine them, we can build on them, but you either care about the general public or you don't. If you have a position that engages customers, make sure you have the right person in that job.

3. Adapting in Real Time
Are we nimble, flexible, able to take advantage of opportunities, be they negative or positive? Richard shares much on these topics in seemingly disparate areas such as governance (champions of change), finances (risk capital), and especially adaptive capacity (the ability to initiate change in response to environment). In discussing social media, Scott says, "We don't have lead time any more. Everything happens in real time." Customers don't stop and wait for us to catch up. Our patrons either find what they want or they go elsewhere. We have to be tuned in enough to be able to immediately respond in a way that will make them say "Awesome!"

Take good ideas where you find them. And run. Who's on your "Have to Meet" list?

Friday, September 14, 2012

Thoughts for NAMP blog post

I've been invited to participate in the National Arts Marketing Project Blog Salon about marketing the arts, in advance of this year's conference in November. As I'll be leading a roundtable discussion there on Customer Service in the Small Shop Arts Organization, I thought I'd write about how to keep audiences coming back for more.

This post is just some thoughts and ideas about the topic, things to remember, or spark questions.

-power of a name. How often are you greeting patrons by name, before they tell you what it is?

-good service makes the whole event. Crappy service can mar good art.

-building relationships takes time.

-ask questions, then write down the answers so you can follow up next time.

-share information with staff, up and down.

-how are you hugging your customers? Once marketing gets them in the door, what actions are you taking to make them raving fans?

-do you have a customer service mission? Not a list of rules, but a mindset about how customers are valued?

-does everyone in your org have a passion for people? This is critical, from box office staff to development to artists.

-you don't need to have expensive technology to build customer databases. All you need is the wherewithal.

-can you name your top 5 patrons? How about 5%?

-are you following up with patrons when they don't show up for a while? "R u ok?"

-share information. Sure, there may be things that an informal patron doesn't need to know, but sharing little things can have a big impact.

-asking for feedback, then actually listening to it and trying to implement.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Where have all the magazines gone?

Confession time: my first love was writing. I was assigned "make a newsletter" in high school and absolutely fell head-over-heels in love with designing, writing, drawing, and printing the single-fold sci-fi 'zine (this in the days before 'zines were a thing). My friends wrote for it, too, and there was a book review and a hand-drawn title and everything important I could think to include.

There are times I miss that format of communication. Short magazines can be not only incredibly gratifying to make but also extremely helpful to a particular audience. Like, say, tourists who are in town for one weekend and want to know what the cultural heartbeat is. My family and I recently visited the metro-Asheville area and picked up an abundance of monthly/bi-monthly/yearly printed magazines. Actual hard-copy, some glossy, some newsprint arts-and-culture magazines.* I pored through them, cover-to-cover, to find calendar listings, articles about restaurants, ads that looked cool, and information about local theaters. And, guess what!, we actually visited a few of the places we could (our limited schedule + business hours didn't always mesh).**

I understand the move away from print: it's expensive, it usually requires more than one person to make (writers don't often make good designers and vice versa), there may be advertising that has to be sold, planning, etc etc, ad nauseum. Building a website may be more labor-intensive up front, but is simply plug-n-play later on, and can be maintained by one person. But the downside to a website is this: audiences still have to find it. You can't put it under their nose at the local theater and the cool dive restaurant and at the Convention and Visitors Bureau and at the hip downtown store and at the local brewery with a tasting room and and and. You get my point: helping folks, whether tourists or locals, find out about cultural offerings requires repetition. A community which relies on a website is probably not going to get the kind of buzz they're hoping for. And a community which doesn't even offer one for the general public, but instead has a handful of independent bloggers covering the multiple scenes, will find itself again and again wondering why folks are still ONLY going to the S/O/B or Broadway touring shows instead of homegrown programming available.

It needn't be elaborate. It needn't be that expensive. It doesn't necessarily even need to be well-written (is there such a job as "copy editor" any more?). What a local culture rag does need is to be omnipresent.

*Full disclosure: there were some beer-related ones in there, too.
**And I happen to be one of those crazy people who tells the business where I found out about them. After all, I want to know my ROI. Wouldn't they?

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Post AftA12

What a phenomenal weekend at the Americans for the Arts annual conference, held in beautiful San Antonio, TX. I have so many anecdotes, stories, lessons, and meetings I want to process and share.

It's been over 15 years since I've flown anywhere, 16 since I've worked a conference, and--unless you count a layover in Dallas when I was 8--I've never been to Texas. This had felt very magical, at times surreal, and I've had to think of it as my debutante ball in the arts administration world. The weekend had made me question what my path is and what the next steps are I need to take.

I will share many of the stories and insights soon, after I've had a chance to reflect and, well, unpack (miracle of modern technology: writing this on my phone in an airport). For now, I just want to thank the folks who were instrumental in making this weekend happen:

*Megan Cornett, director of Marketing, Admissions, and Communications for the graduate programs at Goucher,
*Katja Hill, who bravely tackled the box office while I was gone,
*MariaLaura Leslie, my networking partner and famous colleague,
*Kim and Dulcie, my Goucher table cohorts,
*Kristina, my link to brisket and beer,
*Ramona, the most perfect program director and the big picture thinker to my detail planner,
* and the most spectacular Liz, my AA fairy godmother and mentor.

Yeah, the music played me off stage a while ago. I'll say more later.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Friday, June 1, 2012

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Tiny vs Small, or Can we agree on a definition?

I've recently noticed that a lot of performing arts organizations like to throw around the adjectives "small" and "intimate" when describing themselves, their facility capacity, or their organization structure. The words always make me stop for a second and ponder whether folks are using them because they are accurate descriptions or because they just currently carry a certain cache within the nonprofit industry. When we're competing against a 600-seat for-profit presenting arts organization for our audiences money/time/attention/hearts, it sounds lovely to say "an intimate theater experience", as if the audience will be on stage with the performers. But any house over about 200 seats is not going to be intimate, unless there are only two rows around an arena-style stage.

The same goes for "small" staffing structures: a nonprofit arts organization operating in a small town may feel like they have no staff compared to the city's university presenting arts consortium. But the nonprofit organization still has three full-time employees, 2 part-time assistants, and a whole slew of volunteers. Compared to the group who is perhaps all volunteer, or has one part-time administrator trying to cover all bases of management, those 4 FTE employees are a logarithmic increase in resources. I see this in budget descriptions ("We have a small budget of $350,000/year" vs "We have a small budget of $110,000/year"), team sizes, and audience numbers.

Forcing a comparison between "small" and "large" is easy. Every organization knows who the "big dog" in town is. What is more difficult is agreeing on how to compare one similar-looking organization to another. Both may be doing similar output artistically, but with vast differences in back-end resources and processes. It would make discussions about growth and partnerships much easier if the industry as a whole could define "small", "midsize", and "large" when it comes to our arts organizations. I'd probably add "extra-small", "medium", and "our whole organization could fit in their closet" as possible sections, too.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Bringing Patrons Back

I don't consider myself a marketer, but I will admit that my love of deepening relationships with patrons does fall firmly within the aspects of marketing. Seth Godin says in When Should We Add Marketing?: "Build virality and connection and remarkability into your product or service from the start and then the end gets a lot easier." That connection is what I'm interested in. How can an arts organization build connections from the start? It's not enough any more to assume the connection with the art itself will be enough to bring patrons back. We have to give them more: relationships with staff, with actors, with designers or directors, musicians, composers, writers, dancers, painters, sculptors, etc etc etc. Once we can open up and share the artists--not just the art--will we start to be remarkable.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Authentic Rocks

I'm not certain how this "trackback" thing works, but hopefully if you click on that link, you can read about how Reddit users donated to a Kenyan orphanage. Really powerful stuff. 

I don't have much time but I wanted to throw out this question: when it comes to fundraising for arts organizations, how can we be authentic? How can we strip down our ask to the most basic form, tell the most compelling story, and really connect emotionally with our donors? 

Too often, we ask in a polished, guilt-laden way, because we feel we have to "keep up with the [nonprofit] Jones'". We do our donors, and ourselves, a disservice by trying to be something we're not. 

We're artists, after all. We do things differently, artistically, every day. Why do we approach fundraising by trying to be like everyone else?

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Have You Written Today?

I have a mini post-it on my computer that asks "Have you written today? 5 mins", and has a little picture of a clock.

I write a lot over the course of a normal day: emails, fb posts, homework assignments, discussion board questions, texts, and the millions of constant scribbles on every available surface.* Most of this writing is reactionary; that is, it's in response to someone else's writing. The post-it is really to remind me that I need to write new content, pieces that spur my own action, be that a blog post, a journal entry (it's been almost a year; I have got to update that thing!), or even an email to someone I may have lost contact with. There are so many things on my to-do list that will benefit from daily writing and committing words to paper will serve to spur the Universe to action quicker on all the goals I have.

Writing to fans and friends should be something done on a regular basis, as well. How can you develop the relationship if you don't communicate with them? A short email with insider tidbits on the upcoming production is a perfect balance between taking the time to write it well but not too long before becoming too much information. But these emails can nudge a ticket purchase or serve as a "touch" before the ask. They are just as important as the answer to the boss's question or the planning work and need to be put on the schedule just like those.

*In conversation with a friend recently, the comment was made: "Are you like those crazy people in the movies, when they're finally discovered at home, and all the walls have writing on them?" I laughed. "Not quite that bad," I said, "but almost."

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

A bit belated post on Scott Stratten

I so wanted to go to the National Arts Marketing Project Conference this year. Okay, truth is I want to go to any arts-related conference but they have this nasty habit of 1) falling on show weekends (thus I have to be at work) and 2) having a hefty registration fee (which I can't afford currently). Hence, I am very grateful that the NAMP folks recorded some of their speeches, including the opening keynote by UnMarketing guru Scott Stratten. You can listen to the whole speech here. Today, I just want to share with you what I jotted down while listening.

  • there is no such thing as a neutral brand interaction.
  • Seth Godin's Purple Cow. Unawesome is unaccetable
  • We share experiences.
  • Marketing is actions.
  • Re-marry your current audience.
  • What can you STOP? What can you START? What can you CONTINUE?
  • You can't ignore what you hate.
  • Don't have a presence [in social media] but not be present.
  • Get 'em in the door any way you can.
  • Everyday awesome doesn't have to be epic.
I'll share some thoughts on each of these points in a later post. But that last one, for arts organizations, is especially significant: the art we produce/present should be epic, but our whole organization should leave the patron happy with their experience. Too often arts orgs believe that as long as the art is "good", then patrons won't mind an otherwise crappy time. Au contraire: just as with restaurants and the good food/awful service conundrum, arts patrons will only begrudgingly return to see art if the service is terrible and they will NOT turn into raving fans and bring others with them. Like Scott said, it doesn't need to be epic. How about we all just start with every single person in the organization giving a genuine smile and hearty "Hello!" when a customer walks in? 

And, to be clear, by "customer" I mean everyone who comes in contact with the organization, inside or out. 

Just a simple start.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Ken Burnett is my new favorite person

(Full disclosure: I usually have about one per week.)

I received as a Christmas present Burnett's pithy classic The Zen of Fundraising: 89 Timeless Ideas to Strengthen and Develop Your Donor Relationships (Jossey-Bass, 2006). Burnett has written some of the most revered relationship fundraising books in the field and this one is a nice overview of how relationship fundraising should work.

Every one of those 89 ideas would work as a standalone blog post, but I wanted to write about two of the over-arching ideas he puts forward, because the first is something I want to do every day and the second is, well, my whole raison d'etre.

The first idea is salient, smart communication. I add the adjectives because this is not broadcast communication, trying to reach the widest possible audience at any possible cost. This communication is targeted, well-written, inspires, educates, and deepens the relationship between the nonprofit and the donor. These extend from everything to the monthly newsletter to the formal ask to the thank you letter. This kind of communicating does what Client Attraction author Fabienne Fredrickson calls "Pull Marketing": by the time you're finished talking with the donor, they make the decision to pull out their checkbook. No hard asking needed.

The second idea is developing a personal relationship through service. Donors give us one of the resources we need to do our work. Why do we then neglect them but wonder why they don't give us more? We need to learn about them, make them our closest friends in reality, and help each other grow. At the very least, remember their names and the last time they donated!

Arts organizations, especially small ones without a lot of personal infrastructure, are very bad at both of these things. Directors of all art disciplines are (and rightfully should be) more concerned about the quality of their work and the audience reaction than building friendships with donors. That's fine, but if that is the mindset, an organization needs to do one of two things: either let go of your nonprofit status so you don't have to have donors and find other earned revenue or hire someone who loves donors and loves your art and can do it for you. Spend your payroll dollars on someone who will grow those relationships and make more money for your art. If you can only afford to hire one person to fill multiple roles in your organization, make sure they have a customer service mindset. The fundraising relationships will automatically flow from this.

Friday, January 20, 2012

New Year’s Resolutions: Checklists versus Commitments

New Year’s Resolutions: Checklists versus Commitments

Great stuff over on Artsblog. I've tried to pare back my to-do list (by making master lists and then culling the daily tasks from there) to the three main focus areas in my life: home/myself, school, and work. 

Monday, January 16, 2012

Mazel Tov!

My friends Danny and Jenny got married this weekend! I love life-transition celebrations. There is always an element of the Divine present.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Building a Case for Support

Whether you know you're doing it formally, or just making a list in your head, everyone builds a case for support for something you want. A nonprofit arts organization should write a formal case for support at least annually. It should be constructed by everyone who has a stake in the organization's fundraising effort and, ideally, it should also be contributed to by those with the longest institutional memory (who are likely also your best storytellers). 
[photo by my daughter] I'm a list maker and note taker.

But I also find myself building mini cases every day: "Why More Hours Has An Exponential ROI", "Why I Need An Intern", "Why Moving Would Benefit Us". These are slightly more than just a list of pros and cons, or simple nagging items, but well thought-out, reasoned arguments as to how these things can benefit not only me, but are actually win-win situations for all involved. These secondary lines are not written out as formally as the organizational one, but--just as the more elaborate one is useful as a communication tool with myriad audiences--these mini ones serve to keep me on topic with one-on-one audiences.