Being realistic - minimum shippable product
In software engineering (which is what I do for my day job), we have something we call "minimum shippable product", or MSP. This is describes the minimum set of things the software has to do in order for us to release (or "ship") it to customers. We might have other things we want the software to do, but those things might be extra bells and whistles, not essential functionality. If we end up not having the time or the manpower to do those things, or we're having trouble meeting a deadline, we can decide not to do them, and we can still release a viable product to customers.
But, as with any human endeavor, we can get sort of emotionally attached to these extra bells and whistles. We have to take a step back, every now and then, and remind ourselves of what the MSP is and make sure we aren't sacrificing that core set of functions in favor of working on the bells and whistles. If we didn't do this, we might risk never actually finishing the software and shipping it to customers, or we might do a really good job on something only 5% of customers will use, to the detriment of the part that 100% will use.
MSP can apply to orchestras, too. If you're going to be an all-volunteer organization, it is especially important to figure out what your MSP is and remind yourself of it periodically. Your minimum shippable product will probably something like this:
- Hold a few concerts per year, and enough rehearsals to prepare the musicians for those concerts
- Maintain a full complement of musicians to fill the parts
- Stay financially afloat and in good standing with the IRS
Yes, you could also start a youth concerto competition, commission a new piece, go on tour in Europe, have a float in your local Christmas parade, do outreach in the schools, hire coaches for your sectionals, create a scholarship fund, play chamber music at nursing homes, hold a huge fundraising ball, and simulcast your concerts. All of those things would be totally awesome. If you have an enthusiastic champion who's able to pull one of these things off, go for it! But…if your volunteers are struggling to organize themselves enough to make a budget and get people to show up for rehearsals and concerts, you shouldn't be pursuing anything beyond the bare minimum yet.
You will undoubtedly have no shortage of really exciting ideas of things you could do and would like to do, but the reality is that you have a limited number of volunteers with a limited number of hours, limited skills, and limited budgets. You're not going to be able to do everything, and the ability to envision something does not necessarily come paired with the ability to bring that thing to fruition. Do not allow your organization to get spread too thin, and don't exhaust or overwhelm your volunteers. Revisit your vision and goals periodically, and make sure everyone is clear on what the minimum shippable product is. Be realistic.