Johnson Board Fellows: Brianna Tufts and Matt Orton, both MBA ’11
Kitchen Theatre Company
Project: We identified an opportunity to help the Kitchen Theatre Company in a specific area: student group attendance. Additionally, through the course of our work with the finance sub-committee, we were able to assist the Kitchen Theatre Company with financial forecasting.
Challenges: Our student attendance project was easy to define. The board and the staff were both happy to have us look into the issue, especially given that we are students and closer to understanding that audience.
For the student group attendance project we encountered difficulty connecting with students from different programs at Cornell. We wanted to meet with them to discuss opportunities for groups of students to attend Kitchen Theatre Company productions, but we often found that for various reasons, students were not easily available to meet with us.
Our financial forecasting model was relatively straightforward to complete, but we found challenges in making sure it was a tool that sufficiently aided the staff and the board.
Strategy: The initial part of the strategy was to learn what data and information system Kitchen Theatre Company staff used for storing and utilizing contact information of attendees. That helped us understand what the Kitchen Theatre Company would find useful and where we could add the most value. Based on the initial conversations we decided to research student groups on campus and identify specific organizations that had missions most aligned with theatre or play-related themes.
In the short-term we worked to organize student groups from the Johnson school to better understand the process of student group attendance and also learn first-hand about organizing student groups. In the long-term we focused on finding contact information for student group leaders and faculty advisors who might lead student groups as well as developing a listserv for any student to join in order to give the Kitchen Theatre Company ways to contact students directly.
Outcome: We were able to get several groups of students from Johnson to attend Kitchen Theatre Company productions. We are currently in the process of administering a survey to find out from them the motivation for attendance and interest in joining a listserv. We were surprised by the difficulty we encountered with speaking with other student group leaders on campus. We think this is mainly due to the busy and already over-committed nature of student life. Since we were unable to connect directly with some student leaders, we will recommend adding a webpage on the Kitchen Theatre Company site that focuses exclusively on students.
Value: The experience working as Johnson Board Fellows for the Kitchen Theatre Company has been extremely valuable. We learned how a non-profit board functions and that sub-committee meetings were a great way to see how internally the organization works. It was especially insightful to see how the board members and staff communicate about important issues. We were impressed by the professionalism and care that the board members expressed. It was a wonderful way to learn about an organization, to observe the passion that staff and board members had and to get to know more of Ithaca.
Feedback: Mary Pat Dolan, Kitchen Theatre board chair, wrote: “Matt and Brianna’s involvement with the Kitchen Theatre has been fantastic. We feel so fortunate to have had the opportunity to learn from and with them, and have enjoyed their presence at our board and committee meetings. … Briana worked with one of our board members to develop a model that helped us understand how varying production configurations impacted our overall budget. That model is a tremendous tool that will be used for years to come. … Living in a relatively small marketplace, with a bold mission to present new and exciting productions, it’s very important for us to market effectively to new groups of individuals to bring them closer. We believe Matt and Briana’s thoughtful work on how to market to some of those new audiences has the potential to make a great deal of difference in our success. … This year set the standard for us at the Kitchen about what this collaboration can mean to an organization, and Matt and Briana will leave big shoes to fill.”