Funny Thing Happened While Revising Bylaws

I was really surprised at some recent developments in my block booking consortium today. For about a year we have been scrutinizing our bylaws because people began to realize that practice was deviating from the specifics of the document. I had contributed some information on bylaws to the conversation based on material I wrote about in an earlier entry.

Since the last meeting a committee had met to discuss the bylaws. I wasn’t surprised to learn that people were leaning toward merging with the organization that “birthed” us. Most of the membership overlapped so we generally ended up having meetings together. The only defining difference between us were the genres of entertainment we booked. The discussion of merger brought up many technical questions that will require consulting a lawyer.

One of the interesting questions that arose was if we dissolved one organization and consolidated everyone into the other, could the funds of the dissolved organization be absorbed by the remaining organization. While non-profits’ assets are usually only transferable to other non-profits, an organization’s charter may specify where the assets should go if it ceases operation. Someone mentioned a group to which he belonged had stipulated the funds be split among some local music programs.

What surprised me was the amount of introspection that was occurring about the organizations. It turns out my experience as a member, that of a partnership to leverage our buying power and to collaborate on grants, is not the ideal upon which the groups were founded. There is a lot of history of which I am unaware. At one time there was a much greater focus on community education projects. And the membership was much larger. As coordinating tours started monopolizing greater amounts of time at meetings, the organizations became less relevant for many members and they started drifting away.

By the time the meeting ended, we decided to have a retreat prior to our annual meeting in May to examine the identity and purpose of the groups in addition to discussing whether they would merge or not. This was the last of my associations I expected to be organizing a retreat to contemplate its ideals. Everything has been very practical. Discussions have revolved around times, dates, hotel rooms needed, artistic fees and whether a group offered ed services.

Now people are questioning whether we can be a force for arts advocacy in our community.

I am starting to get a little excited about this planned retreat in May and what might develop.

About Joe Patti

I have been writing Butts in the Seats (BitS) on topics of arts and cultural administration since 2004 (yikes!). Given the ever evolving concerns facing the sector, I have yet to exhaust the available subject matter. In addition to BitS, I am a founding contributor to the ArtsHacker ( website where I focus on topics related to boards, law, governance, policy and practice.

I am also an evangelist for the effort to Build Public Will For Arts and Culture being helmed by Arts Midwest and the Metropolitan Group. (

My most recent role was as Executive Director of the Grand Opera House in Macon, GA.

Among the things I am most proud are having produced an opera in the Hawaiian language and a dance drama about Hawaii's snow goddess Poli'ahu while working as a Theater Manager in Hawaii. Though there are many more highlights than there is space here to list.


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