Dave Zibell, Director of Marketing for Old Town School of Folk Music, one of the founders of the Square Roots festival and currently serving as Board President for Lincoln Square Ravenswood Chamber of Commerce.
About Old Town School of Folk Music:
My organization is the Old Town School of Folk Music with a mission of providing quality arts education to everyone. Old Town School teaches roughly 4,000 students in Lincoln Square, Lincoln Park and some suburban branches every 8-week session as well as presenting around 350 concert performances per year.
How many years do you have in the nonprofit industry?
I’ve been working in the nonprofit industry directly for the past 10 years but have been involved in the arts in some form for most of my life!
How do you develop and grow your desired culture within your organization?
I think a great team culture comes from meeting people where they are and understanding where they want to be as professionals. If you haven’t created a space for individuals to feel like they can be themselves and have a say in how the team engages with each other, you’re constantly working uphill. I have a wise co-worker who likes to remind our leadership team that “culture eats strategy for breakfast.” While I think you can always develop and grow your desired culture, you really have to understand the people and the audiences you serve to make incremental adjustments.
In a unique organization like Old Town School of Folk Music, we have so many different individuals creating bespoke cultures across the organization – whether that’s students who have been in class for decades together or volunteers who work together on our World Music Wednesdays – if you have an understandable framework or mission that folks can get behind, it’s been my experience that it’s much easier to create a culture of support.
I’ve also been extremely lucky to work with incredible, smart, and talented teams. If you’re lucky to hire great people with positive attitudes, a fantastic team culture can come together naturally.
What software programs or tech tools have you found are helpful in your daily operations?
I’m a bit of a tech nerd to begin with, but I find the most helpful tools and software are cloud-supported and ubiquitous across devices – I don’t want to rely on being in a specific place. Our team uses Google enterprise tools for email and docs quite a bit, which has incredible search built in and I personally rely on a lot. Slack (or Microsoft Teams in some organizations) has completely transformed communication between different working groups around the organization and has also brought some additional fun to daily communications. We have active work channels but also channels to share recipes, music, sell some stuff from your house, and to collect stories from customers and donors about Old Town School. Our customer service team even uses some nifty Slack integrations to run our live chat. Slack has been especially instrumental in keeping our teams connected (and sometimes distracted) post-pandemic.
What is your best time management tool or tip?
I personally see a lot of benefit to thinking of the day as more ‘energy management’ rather than specifically time management. Some days, some meetings, some interactions will require a lot more energy than others. If you’re aware of your available reserves of energy and the things that either fill your energy up or take it away, I think you can do a better job of being prepared for how to respect your own time and other people’s time.
And bring snacks.