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IBW Client Spotlight: Symphony of Northwest Arkansas

Over the years IBW has had the opportunity to work with many nonprofits in Northwest Arkansas, including several arts and culture organizations. A referral from our friends at the Botanical Garden of the Ozarks recently connected us with the leadership of the Symphony of Northwest Arkansas (SoNA), which led to a strategic planning engagement.


SoNA has a 60-year history of delighting and inspiring audiences through classical and pops concerts as a resident company of the Walton Arts Center and through performances across the region offered in collaboration with a host of community partners. Like every arts organization, SoNA endured major disruption during COVID. The symphony had just welcomed its new Executive Director when the pandemic hit. While many ideas brought by this new leadership had to be tabled in the short term, an opportunity emerged: to use the disruption and innovation driven by COVID as a springboard to the future by launching the development of a new strategic plan.


The first phase of our strategic planning work with SoNA involved an Environmental Assessment. This process included surveys of SoNA subscribers/ticket buyers and the SoNA Board of Directors and in-depth interviews with key funders, donors, and partners in the community. This effort revealed a collective desire for SoNA to become more visible and creatively active in the community, and strong support for continued innovations in performance venues, repertoire, and partnerships.


Planning discussions centered around ways to create the musicians and music lovers of the future through deeper engagement with schools, and on continuing SoNA’s commitment to diversity – in programming and guest artists, in locations and communities in which the symphony performs, in the audiences who attend, and in the musicians who perform.


The planning process made clear SoNA is committed to expanding its visibility and impact in Northwest Arkansas. It was also clear that fulfilling these aspirations will require new resources. Therefore, a significant portion of the planning process involved identifying resources (staff, dollars, technology, etc.) that will be required to operationalize the plan. This “reality-based” planning is a hallmark of the IBW approach.


Together, the roadmap outlined in the strategic plan and the clear understanding of the resources required to implement it, position SoNA to successfully tell their story, make a strong case for philanthropic support, and most importantly, will help fulfill their vision: to be recognized as a trailblazing orchestra that expands the possibilities of what an orchestra can be,

changes lives by increasing interest and equity in the arts through outreach, education, collaboration, and performance, creatively honors the past, present, and future of our artform, and fosters the highest levels of artistic expression.


Congratulations, SoNA! IBW is proud to have helped you develop your plan, and we look forward to watching you continue to bring great music to life in Northwest Arkansas.


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