When my kids were growing up, we used to mark their height on the doorframe with a sharpie, usually on birthdays. It was always fun to see how they had grown. Sometimes there wasn't a huge change in height, and other times it was a big jump. I was really bad at guessing ahead of time and was usually way under. I was just too close to see the change over time.
Last week, I gave our annual "Services to the Field" presentation to the Michigan Arts and Culture Council. Because of COVID, it had been over four years since I'd last reported during a meeting. To prepare, I had Claire Johnston, MMA's Membership & Communications Coordinator, put together some statistics that showed change since then. Yowsa. We are MUCH taller than we were in 2018.
Since that time, our membership has grown 36% and so has our Facebook engagement. Our membership revenue has grown by 46%! In April of 2018, when I last did our report, Claire had only been part of the MMA staff for a year and was still just a Membership Assistant. She has now been on staff for over five years with increased responsibility, and that impact is obvious from the above statistics.
One of strategies for MMA over the years, except for during COVID of course, has been slow, incremental growth. We tweak things that are stable, lean in to things that are working, and set aside things that don't seem to have traction. I feel like I often say that we focus on the low hanging fruit. That can be frustrating because it often means it takes a very long time for a new idea to be implemented in a robust way. But, when we step back for a minute and take some measurements, it's easier to see the progress.
Lisa Craig Brisson
Check out the full set of slides from the MACC presentation.
One of my favorite things about the Michigan Museums Association is how generous everyone is. This week, we launched our campaign for scholarships to attend the fall conference. So, I’ve been looking at numbers and statistics and the names of past recipients. Did you know that MMA members have provided 71 scholarships over the past six years? That’s amazing to me!
I just looked back at the list of our first scholarship recipients in 2016. We created the program that year because we were worried that people would not be able to attend the more-expensive joint conference with the American Association for State and Local History. We were able to send 18 people to that conference and at least half would not have been able to attend at all without the scholarship.
Looking at the names made me smile. Quite a few recipients from that year are very engaged MMA members that I see regularly. One is now serving on the MMA Board of Directors, and another is currently helping plan this year’s conference. Clearly, that investment has paid off!
Another list that makes me smile, is the donor list. It is usually a wide range of people from all types and sizes of museums, and for many different amounts. One year a donor gave us $3.86. I have no idea what that was about, but I was thrilled to get it. Scholarship donations usually bring in more and different donors than what we typically see with the year-end appeal (the fundraiser that helps fund MMA operations), and I’m good with that. There is no better indication of the strength of the Michigan museum community than seeing the number of people who want to help a colleague or a total stranger!
Lisa Craig Brisson
We are a little more than halfway through our year of celebrating #50YearsTogether for MMA. After spending much of the first half focused on the 50 years part and then having our first gathering in 30 months a few weeks ago, I have been thinking a lot lately about what it means to be together.
Service to the Michigan museum community is the heart and soul of the Michigan Museums Association, but it is the coming together part that fuels our fire. We’ve seen that over the past several years with the move to online programs. We saw that earlier this month with the Anniversary and Awards Celebration event. And, we’ve seen it time and time again over the past 50 years, starting with that founding group who got together to form a new organization.
Amazing things happen when the Michigan museums community comes together. Sometimes, it is just an individual feeling of community and belonging that comes from being in the same room with dozens (or hundreds) of other people who are committed to the work of museums. Sometimes, it is a personal moment of insight or inspiration that projects a person forward in the way they can approach their job or career. Sometimes two people or a group of people make a connection that leads to collaboration. And, sometimes, there is a spark that leads to a movement.
I am so grateful to be getting back to the work of bringing the Michigan museum community together in real life(!), but also to take some time during the rest of our anniversary to reflect upon what that means.
Lisa Craig Brisson
I have been thinking a lot about celebrating again lately. I taught the Project Management for History Professionals course for the American Association for State and Local History this winter, and the last concept we covered was the idea of celebrating the conclusion of a project. You may recall that I struggle with this step, and apparently others do as well. We had some great conversations about why this is an important thing to do for a project, but also why we don’t do it enough.
It turns out that celebration is important for a lot of things. I have been reading the book Tiny Habits by B.J. Fogg. He really leans on the power of celebration in adding a new activity to your life. He talks a little about this in this video “C'mon, you gotta celebrate!” (about halfway down the page). Celebrating is not just nice — it’s science too!
And, speaking of celebrations, we are going to have a big one on May 12! There is so much to honor including 50 years of MMA, the Peninsulas Prize recipients for leadership and DEAI work, and the President’s Award for service. We will also acknowledge five people who have been significant donors to MMA, a dozen MMA members who have been appreciated by their colleagues, and 35 people who completed the full 2021 Leadership Series. That’s a lot of celebrating! I can’t wait.
Lisa Craig Brisson
I remember when my kids were little; I got really good at anticipating a growth spurt. They would often seem to be putting on weight, then they would get super cranky, and the next thing I knew, their pants were too short! I am sure someone has studied organizational change enough to be able to list the indicators for organizations, but it is only now that I can see how MMA has been building up to a growth spurt in the same way that my kids did.
I have been with MMA for ten years this summer, and we have been growing in small increments ever since then. First, I was VERY part-time. Then, I was half-time. At that point, we were able to add a quarter-time position (Claire) which then grew to half-time. Once Claire's position settled, my time started to grow again, and now I am three-quarters time, which is where I’d like to be a little bit longer.
Before 2020, our programs and services were growing as well. The conference was more robust each year and we started the Meet and Eat program that kept growing. When COVID hit we moved to Zoom and have now developed a program of online offerings including MMA member communities. We’ve been getting wider and wider for ten years!
But lately, we’ve been a little cranky. Or perhaps more accurately, stressed out. Both Claire and I have far more items on our to do list than time. It doesn’t feel sustainable or good. Hence the cranky.
And now here comes the fun part – a growth spurt! The MMA board of directors approved a new position for MMA earlier this month, and we have already gotten many applications from wonderful candidates. It will be a big change to go from a team of two to a team of three, but we are SO EXCITED. Our strategy for the new position will follow the slow growth pattern as well. It will start at quarter-time and grow as our capacity (and revenue) increases. We know how that works, and we can’t wait to make it happen.
Lisa Craig Brisson
How do you celebrate the successful completion of a project?” That was a question from my career coach earlier this month that stopped me in my tracks. We were discussing how I tend to take on two new projects to replace one that is ending. In my head, the issue was that my enthusiasm for good endeavors was greater than my capacity. But in that question, my coach helped me see that at least part of the issue was lack of closure. And indeed, one of the hardest parts of a project for me is completing and filing the final report. And because I dislike that stage, I tend to want to jump right to the next thing.
Further discussion identified that I don’t even have ideas for how to celebrate most of my projects. To me, the uber-extravert, a celebration must include other people. But I work alone and somehow a screen celebration just doesn’t do it for me. My coach pointed out that an effective closure celebration just needs to be different, not necessarily with others. We decided that to celebrate finally finishing the report for the 2021 conference, the last thing I need to do for that project, I will go to my wonderful local coffee shop and catch up on my professional reading. I’ll still be working, just doing something I enjoy and don’t often feel like I have time for. It’s a win, win.
That got me wondering what other tasks or completions I put off because I don’t want to do them? Or what are things that I like to do but that fall to the bottom of the priority list because other things are more pressing? As a result, I shredded a stack of papers (so satisfying) to celebrate completing the MMA bookkeeping for November (so tedious). Now, I can’t wait for December to end so I can reorganize a drawer in the file cabinet!
I am guessing that I will still take on more work than I should, but I am also enjoying coming up with ways to bask in the moment of completion when I wrap something up. What are some ways that you mark the end of a job well done?
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