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What do I mean by sustainability?

Sustainability is often only used in conversations about green initiatives. But really, sustainability is about maintenance and longevity. In conversations about being green, the discussion is on maintaining the earth and its resources as best as we can by changing how we do daily things. This could include changing light bulbs, types of paper used, and implementing a recycling program. Additionally, this could include revamping your methodologies to be better for your community, your staff, and overall, for your organization.

Okay, that’s cool and all, but what do you mean exactly?

I’m talking about work environment. You can’t produce anything substantial for your publics if you’re not working well or to full potential. This includes elements of marketing, programming, publications, and more. Any institution needs to run like a well-oiled machine, so finding ways to streamline processes and free up some working hands could take your chaotic office to new levels of productivity. Take marketing, for example. If you were to figure out what platforms work best for your institution, like we outline in this article, you could focus energies on advertising and engagement. Additionally, if you were to start using a scheduling service like Later or HootSuite, you could schedule out weeks, even months of social media content (including captions, account tagging, hashtags, etc.)!

This also includes streamlined messaging, training, and a reevaluation of your employees’ time. If you want consistent messaging, create a document that walks people through the process. Train your staff so they know how to do their job. Talk to your staff about how they view their jobs, their daily tasks, and their place in the institution. Are they happy? Are they proud of the work they’re doing? If not, you need to figure out how to keep your institution running smoothly by keeping your employees happy and productive—and not with busy work. You can’t run anything well if you’re constantly having to hire and train new people.

Programs have the potential to be a big source of revenue and exposure for any organization. They will never be or run perfectly but having too many programs a season or even a year can strain you thin. Figure out which ones work the best for you and stick to them. You don’t need to do something so fringe it doesn’t make sense, whether that’s a lack of connection to your mission/ vision/ story or for a niche market. Start by keeping it simple. Add some glitter when you can.

You know your organization well and probably have ideas about how to improve it. Think long term and how you want to get there. By taking those little steps to change the course of your organization toward success, you can prepare for the long haul—that is sustainability.

Sarah Hixson (she/her/hers) is an emerging art museum curator. Have any questions or comments for her? Email us at and she’ll get back to you as soon as she can.

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