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Beth Larson

Affecting Change in Small Organizations: How Making a Difference Can Make a Difference

by Beth Larson Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Working within a large corporation or non-profit has some obvious advantages: great benefits, stability, and clearly defined roles just to name a few. However, for me, nothing outweighs the feeling of truly making a difference in an organization. Coming from a career as an orchestral player, one violinist in a sea of musicians, it is important for me to feel that I am affecting positive growth where I work. The two positions I have held since beginning the MBA program have been prime examples of such roles.

As a first year MBA student in the Bolz Center for Arts Administration as well as a professional musician, I was ecstatic to learn of my placement at the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra. On the first day of my “externship,” CEO Mark Cantrell invited me to suggest the project on which I would work during my time with WCO. Immediately, I suggested that the organization and community would benefit greatly from the development of a Family Community Concert series. The idea was well-received, and the staff and board supported the initiative for the new series. Eight months later, over 400 children and their families gathered on the east side of Madison to explore the wonderful world of classical music through activities and an engaging, interactive performance designed just for them.

The Family Community Concert series was supported by parents, volunteers, WCO orchestra members, staff, board, community members, granting organizations, corporations, and individual donors throughout Madison. This support fueled demand and resulted in the continuation and expansion of the series in Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra’s 2018-19 season. Not only will the series reoccur, but it will expand to offer more communities and children the opportunity to experience the event. There is no feeling like knowing you have contributed to your community in a meaningful, lasting way.

My summer internship with the Wisconsin Youth Symphony Orchestras feels much the same way. My position as Development Manager came with a long list of duties and responsibilities, but the biggest need within the organization seemed to be structure, organization, and innovation in fundraising methods. After a few short months of working for WYSO, I feel like I am able to impact the overall health and success of this small non-profit. As I work to improve campaigns, update databases, and orchestrate innovative fundraising initiatives, I feel that my input is valued, and I am already able to apply the leadership skills and knowledge I have gleaned from my MBA classes.

As I look further into the future and consider the larger landscape of my career, I am not sure whether I will continue working for small non-profits or move into a position with a larger organization. However, I do know that I need to be an influencer, a doer, and a leader wherever I end up.