Org your org with a colorful tech tool

I tripped over Airtable on Facebook the other day, and have been playing around with it to see if it might help small arts organizations do something that for many, seems very mysterious:  making sense of their staff structure.  It is, after all, the start of the new season, and plenty of folks in the arts are scrambling to get things together for the next big project.  What could be better than a big planning task with charts and graphs and calendars and lists and…

Organizational charts. Woo hoo!

OK, be honest — who’s asleep?  You may have hit the snooze button at what sounds like boring business talk, and that’s why a lot of presenters and arts admins (yes, chamber musicians, you, too) tend to put this very basic business chore off, or never get to it at all. But knowing who your team is, what they’re responsible for, and who reports to whom is absolutely essential in any business or organization, and it can make or break your success.  If you’re running a choir, ensemble, school, teaching team, service nonprofit or something else that involves more than two people, you need that vision clarified, so you know where you are, where you’re headed, and who’s going to do what along the way.

This is where Airtable is kinda brilliant.  The interface is not only easy to manage, but it’s fun.  The pop-up tips that show up at the beginning and simple, clear, and point out the good stuff.  You can create a number of useful resources with beautifully laid-out templates, to do things like

  • Create an employee, performer and volunteer directory.
  • Plan way ahead for your next concert’s marketing strategy: social media and blog content, press release distribution, as well as design and printing schedules for postcards, flyers and programs.
  • Organize your thoughts about what next summer’s interns will do, and who they’ll be working with.
  • Work out a clear development strategy for not only your next fundraiser, but your next three to five years!
  • Track inventory and sales of your promotional merchandise, tickets, lessons and other products.
  • Schedule and coordinate deadlines for your next production schedule, including the who what and when of every milestone that needs to be met.
The intro for one of Airtable’s many templates

You can do this in Excel, FileMaker, Google Docs or any number of other commons tools, of course, but wouldn’t you rather dive straight into planning rather than spending a bunch of time on file setup? You can just open a template and start typing.  But yes, you can customize them, too.

The graphics are vibrantly colored and the features are clearly marked.  The navigation is fairly intuitive and even the free features can help you clear your head and figure out who’s who in your org.  There are four pricing levels (note:  priced per user! and are billed annually), and the first two would probably more than meet needs to 95% of all arts nonprofits:  there’s a free level with basic tools, and a $10/month Plus level that offers the same basic features, but more storage space for attachments, allows for much larger databases, and gives you access to more backup and revision history.The fancier Pro and Enterprise levels are far more souped-up (probably more than most will need), and there’s a free trial available for the Pro version that gives you full-featured play time for 14 days.  Chances are that the free level would suffice for a lot of the ensembles in town, and could help a lot.

The web version and apps are compatible with most devices out there, and with a strong knowledge base / FAQ resource, video tutorials and bot-driven chat help, the instant support is pretty decent. Need some inspiration? There’s even a tab where you can explore the Airtable “Universe“, browsing a user community blog where people can show off how they’ve put these tools to work:

 

Impression

This was just a cursory look at this already widely-used toy, but here’s my bottom line:  if you’re part of a team, have an org chart.  It really does help, and with a tool like this, it’s not hard to create.  It’s a starting point that can trigger important conversations.  It can help you plan for growth, and the process might even spark some new dreams.  Give it a spin and see what it does for you:

airtable.com

Here’s an intro video:

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