1. Making the Case

Introduction: Idea in Brief

In order for the LDI relationship building research to answer the overarching question: “How do we build and sustain meaningful relationships in our communities?” cohort members had to take an important step back and ask themselves “Why is it important to know and connect with community” and “How does knowing and connecting with our communities help us build and sustain successful, relevant arts organizations”?

Members found that while each of their organizations was unique, this was a crucial step to take before they could move forward with their research. They had to Make the Case for the importance of undertaking the work of building relationships in their communities. The cohort developed the following helpful tools and tactics for Making the Case for each of their organizations.

Tools and Tactics

Each community has a unique history, and each organization has a specific mission. Before you make the case for your own organization, you may find it useful to reflect on the following questions.

  • How would you define your community?
  • Does your mission statement help define your community?
  • Whom does your organization currently serve and how?
  • With whom would you like to connect that you are not reaching now?
  • What would be lost in your community, if your organization did not exist?

If you would like to support your case with more details, you may want to choose a performance that you view as culturally successful and determine why this show or cultural event was important and/or relevant.

  • Whom did it serve?
  • Did it invite dialogue and open discourse?
  • Did it expose your community to something new?
  • Did it reinforce diversity, cultural truths or already established communal ideas?
  • Did it create sustainable partnerships with other arts or service organizations?

Making the Case Worksheet

Some Questions to Consider When Answering: Why it is Important to Know and Connect with the Community, From the Perspective of Your Own Experience?

  1. How would you define your community? This answer could be different for each presenter. At this point in time, what is your understanding of your community? It could be that your mission statement helps define your community.
  2. Where would you begin in order to make the case? Who are your audiences for this case statement? Your staff? Board? Donors? Community partners?
  3. What would be lost in your community, if your organization did not exist?

Download the Making the Case Worksheet

Best Practices

While each case will be particular to local context, there are shared elements for any performing arts organization. Cohort participants found that the following concepts helped to drive their organizations’ desires to connect with their communities:


  1. The very origins of art were communal, a means of expressing ideas and connecting to fellow human beings.
  2. Human connections serve the social health of the community and create a common good.
  3. The absence of shared cultural experiences indicates a breakdown in the cultural fabric and threatens the relevancy of our work and the sustainability of our organizations.

Furthermore, in order to help presenters make the case about the relevance of their organizations, LDI participants all agreed with the following value statements:


  1. If we are to initiate or re-establish human and organizational connections in our communities, we must develop long-term and meaningful relationships.
  2. Maintaining these relationships is vital to the future of our arts organizations and requires genuine openness, dedicated resources and continuous evaluation.

How It Works in Practice: Voices from the Field

To Make the Case for each of their organizations, cohort participants conducted research through interviews both inside their organizations and in their communities, by simply asking “Why is it important for our arts organization to know and connect with our community?” Through this exercise they were able to develop the following personal statements on why knowing and connecting with the community is not only important, but also vital.

Taking the time to do this research in your organization and community and then building your own personal statements will help you Make the Case for your organization.

Excerpts from 5 LDI Making the Case Statements

The very origins of art were communal: a means of expressing ideas, connecting to fellow humans, sharing culture, and serving the social health and greater good of the communities that created itRelationships must be the driving force if we are to sustain our organizations and the field itself.

Judy Oliver-Turner, Hands On Children’s Museum (formerly at Washington Center for the Performing Arts, Olympia WA.)

Unless our arts organizations continuously evaluate our missions and evolve our programming to reflect the communities in which we serve, we run the risk of becoming irrelevant and impotent as a force for social and cultural change in our cities.

Shirley Elliott, Tulsa Performing Arts Center Trust

Arts play a strong role in community making. Engagement and participation serve to build community…Without strong relationships; we cannot align our efforts with our community needs, motivations, and experiences.

Sharon Fantl, Redfern Arts Center/Keene State College

The opportunities provided by authentic engagement with community far outweigh the challenges…In learning what is important to our communities, we can create projects that inspire and have a lasting impact. It’s a way to make arts a relevant and necessary commodity in the lives of our community.

Bobby Asher, Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center

In the advent of the 21st century, there is a symbiotic and converse relationship between the sustainability of the arts sector and the sustainability of the community in which it exists. Communities are more vibrant and sustainable with a thriving arts sector. Artists/arts organizations have access to more resources and greater support in thriving communities – more freedom and resources in which to fulfill their missions.

Rachel Y. DeGuzman, formerly at Rochester City Ballet

View generic making the case statements to help you develop your own approach to communicating why community engagement is vital to your organization.

LDI Methodology

APAP’s Leadership Development Institute follows a Cooperative Inquiry design. Read more ›

2012/2013 Team

Fourteen LDI team members were chosen from a cross section of US presenting organizations. Read more ›

Best Practices

LDI members developed best practices around 5 key aspects of engaging community with and through the arts. Read more ›

About LDI

Launched in 2010, the goal of the LDI is to develop the leadership, knowledge and capacity required to advance the performing arts presenting field. Read more ›

Resource Library

LDI members created a library of resource materials to guide presenters’ community building efforts. Read more ›