When it comes to fostering education and engagement between artists and communities to create positive social change, RedLine Contemporary Art Center can’t be beat. Founded almost a decade ago, RedLine was born as a response to a community lacking in both creative opportunities for residents and support for emerging artists. Since its founding, RedLine has provided support to a dynamic group of resident artists, as well as offering programs to benefit the surrounding community.
Along with the mission to support a thriving arts scene comes plenty of routine day-to-day details that need to get handled, regardless of whether anyone on the RedLine team has a specialty in that area. Smart, creative, and driven — the RedLine team is loaded with talent. But, to make a bigger impact, as a national model for the idea of place-based art as a vehicle for social change, the team realized they needed to increase capacity for handling details of the business side of the enterprise.
RedLine became an investee of Social Venture Partners in 2016. By a stroke of luck, late last year SVP Partner Anastasia Toomey, an expert at Entrepreneurial Operating System (EOS) – which combines business principles with simple tools to help organizations meet their goals, was looking to apply her transformational leadership program skills with a local nonprofit. What followed was a textbook case of being in the right place at the right time. “EOS is a way of running an organization that gives you simple, practical tools and helps you structure for growth,” Toomey says. “For nonprofits, you hit a plateau where everybody’s scrambling around doing everything and working so hard and so fast, and something’s got to give if we’re going to see our mission through to its best possibilities. EOS is about managing six key areas of the organization for greatest efficiency. It provides a way of looking at your organization like a business that allows you to remain mission-oriented.
“I think the tough thing with a lot of business tools that don’t work for nonprofits, is that you don’t get to still be passionate about the very mission for which you’re working if you’re focused solely on the business aspects. Trying to operate like a business wrings the passion out of people working for non-profits by talking only about money, and the EOS process strays from this tendency,” says Toomey. “This is about people and process, and how we solve problems and how we become more efficient so we can grow. And, by grow with a nonprofit, I mean share your love for your mission, and get that out to a broader audience. EOS is a beautiful system that is incredibly simple and that’s the other thing. It doesn’t take long to learn it and get good at it.”
Toomey first met with the RedLine executive team in late December. Just a few months later, they are already seeing major positive results with EOS.
“It is extra work outside of what they currently do, but it is work that seems to make other things more efficient,” Toomey says. “A lot of nonprofits don’t understand that structure and organization and actually running your organization like a business gives you the freedom to have these wide open spaces that are new to which you can allocate resources., and that’s the fun part of it. Otherwise, if you stay in your one experimental place forever and you don’t make as big of an impact as you could.”
Thanks to SVP and Toomey being in the right place at the right time, RedLine is definitely now on the right track.