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How the Arts Can Prosper Through Strategic Collaborations, Harvard Business Review


From the mid-1960s to the mid-1980s, the nonprofit performing-arts industry in the United States enjoyed unprecedented growth. But in recent years, the arts have been hard hit by shrinking audiences, rising debt, and cuts in government funding. Can arts organizations succeed in this environment and fulfill their own special missions? The authors have observed one way in which they can succeed: through strategic collaborations--intensive, durable commitments created for mutual gain. Scheff and Kotler describe how innovative arts organizations are leveraging their limited resources by allying themselves with organizations ranging from other nonprofit arts groups to community groups to businesses. The authors tell how arts groups in Philadelphia have worked together to build audiences, how foundations and arts organizations in Chicago have made possible the construction of a new performance hall, and how a broad range of businesses and nonprofit groups have recharged downtown San Jose, California. They lay out the critical steps that organizations must take to forge viable partnerships. In a strategic collaboration, partners create joint authority and structure to carry out a common mission. They engage in comprehensive planning and operate well-defined communication channels. Each partner contributes its own resources and reputation. A strategic collaboration is a major opportunity for both nonprofit arts organizations and their partners. When well designed and executed, such collaborations can help the partners expand their customer base, develop new sources of funding, and cut costs without compromising any organization's mission or quality.




Philip Kotler

Date Published



Kotler, Philip. 1996. How the Arts Can Prosper Through Strategic Collaborations. Harvard Business Review. 74(1): 52-62.


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