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Local nonprofits make an executive decision
When you're looking for an executive director, especially in this economy, support is vital
Gainesville Symphony Orchestra music director Gregory Pritchard, left, discusses plans for the orchestra with board president Cindy Dieckman and board treasurer Jim Toopes. The Gainesville Symphony is one of a few local arts organizations looking for an executive director. - photo by Tom Reed


Cindy Dieckman, president of the Gainesville Symphony Orchestra’s board of directors, talks about keeping operations going after executive director Pam Slaton left her job July 7.

Paula Lindner has picked up a few extra duties since her boss retired in early July.

But Lindner, assistant to the director at the Quinlan Visual Arts Center at 514 Green St. in Gainesville, doesn’t mind the work, which includes updating the center’s Web site and attending Art League meetings.

“It looks good on my resume. ... Not having an executive director here gives us opportunities that normally we wouldn’t be assigned, but that’s not a bad thing,” she said.

“That just gives (assistant director Amanda Kroll and I) more professional experience that I think we both are looking for.”

At least two other area nonprofit organizations can sympathize with the Quinlan having a vacancy in the top administrator’s chair.

The Holly Theatre in Dahlonega and the Gainesville Symphony Orchestra also are having to keep operations afloat while they conduct job searches.

The nonprofit head’s work typically is varied and hectic, from planning events to leading the all-important fundraisers. The work during a transitional time of leadership tends to get spread around, with paid staff and volunteer board members often having to pick up the slack.

And with a slumping economy, fundraising for nonprofits is even more essential. Since that is one of the main duties required of the executive director, it puts even more weight on the shoulders of board members and staffers.

Carlos Dominguez, president of Quinlan’s board, said he believes the Quinlan has been fortunate that Lindner and Kroll have more than stepped up to the plate in their jobs.

“They have been running the Quinlan extremely effectively. We didn’t really miss a beat in any of that,” he said. “... The exhibits went on, the contact with the artists went on — nothing got in the way of the day-to-day operations.”

Also, the Quinlan has been able to adjust to the leadership void because the center knew of Maureen Files’ retirement plans and were able to prepare, Dominguez said.

“Upon her retirement, the committee structure, the executive director structure, the board of directors were really well organized, and a plan was in place and we had objectives,” he said.

Basically, daily operations have gone so well that there’s no particular rush to replace Files, Dominguez said.

“We have the time, a lot of time, to select the right executive director,” he said.

The center has received “an extensive number of resumes, really some great qualified folks,” Dominguez said.

The Gainesville symphony has been without its executive director, Pam Slaton, since July 7.

“Each one of us has jobs, so that’s (been) one difficult thing in fitting (symphony work) in schedules,” said Cindy Dieckman, president of the board, “but it is a process.”

She added, “It’s obviously a learning process, and so we have pretty much taken it day by day. We knew we had a concert in October, so that was our main focus.

“To get everything lined up — the orchestra, all the contracts, all of the things that go into it, and so that has been our process since July.”

Dieckman said “getting our ducks in a row has been pretty much systematic.”

“Different people on the board have taken on responsibilities and ... people have to give more time than they did before,” she added. “But I have not run into any problems with that.”

Colleen Quigley Green left the Holly Theatre on Sept. 26, bringing “to a close a period of unprecedented artistic programming at the (theater) under her leadership,” said Rich Grimshaw, chairman of the board of directors, in a September e-mail.

He went on to say that to keep the operation running, the board had asked remaining Holly staff and volunteers to take on additional duties while the board searched for a replacement.

“As is true today for many not-for-profit enterprises, the Holly is feeling the financial pinch of rising costs and shrinking contributions,” Grimshaw wrote.

“... We must preserve and advance the level of entertainment achieved under Colleen’s leadership and increase individual and corporate contributions.”

Grimshaw spoke to the financial strain in a phone interview last week.

“Our attendance has been adversely affected by gas prices,” he said. “We had a show on stage during a time when Atlantans couldn’t get gas, and we rely on some people coming from Atlanta, Cumming and Gainesville (to see shows).”

How the economy will translate to the search for a new executive director also is uncertain, Grimshaw said.

“It could be there are many qualified candidates because of the economy, I don’t know,” he said.

Dieckman said “resumes ... are coming in” for the symphony post.

And Jim Toopes, treasurer on the symphony’s board, said he hopes the post will be filled by early next year.

“With the holidays coming up, it may be a little bit difficult to get through the interviewing and hiring process during that period of time,” he said.

As to the economy’s effects, Dieckman said she has been pleased by “the participation of donors who love music and the arts.”

Toopes said he believes the symphony will be able to offer competitive pay.

“We believe we’ll be able to accommodate a talented person at what we think we will be a market salary, so we can move forward.”

Dominguez said he felt likewise about that situation at Quinlan.

“We always thought, and were able to confirm with the Georgia Council for the Arts,  that the salary range (for the job) was handsome and that it would attract a fair number of prospects,” he said. “And it has.”