Spectrum Nonprofit Services partnered with the Milwaukee Youth Symphony Orchestra to expand its reach and mission impact.

The Mission

Milwaukee Youth Symphony Orchestra (MYSO) is one of the most successful and respected youth orchestra programs in the nation, regularly recognized regionally, nationally, and internationally for its artistic excellence. With 1,000 young musicians ages 8 -18 from as many as 215 schools, 60 communities, and counties throughout southeastern Wisconsin and northern Illinois participating in MYSO’s many music training programs, it has become one of the largest organizations of its kind in the United States.


The Ask

Spectrum Nonprofit worked with the Milwaukee Youth Symphony Orchestra (MYSO) to strengthen its financial health while assessing new opportunities to expand its reach and mission impact. They were also seeking a facilitator to guide them through a set of strategic conversations to create a unified vision for the organization’s future. They turned to Spectrum Nonprofit for the team’s insight, experience, and leadership, particularly in tying fiscal stability to mission impact.

The Approach

Spectrum Nonprofit provided a comprehensive set of services centered around the question of MYSO’s financial sustainability and on the creation of a strategic direction reflecting an understanding of the intersection between MYSO’s impact and finances. In close collaboration with a task force composed of board and staff leadership, Spectrum Nonprofit designed a process for the team to build the following:

  • A clear statement of intended impact for the organization together with metrics to monitor MYSO’s progress toward its impact
  • An articulated impact strategy that clearly and visually communicated the strategies and programs for accomplishing the impact
  • A Matrix Map to visually demonstrate how the programs, both mission-specific and fund development, currently interacted to create both impact and financial viability
  • A better understanding of where MYSO needed to make investments to build financial sustainability and how to generate the capital for those investments
  • A set of core strategic priorities by program to achieve a more sustainable organization with increased impact and financial health

The Results

For MYSO, building consensus and flexibility around ongoing strategic decision-making was a key step. “Not only did Spectrum have the capacity to connect these concepts for the organization, but they also led the process in a thoughtful, integrated way that allowed all constituent voices to be part of the final decision-making,” recalls Linda Edelstein, CEO at MYSO.

Because there was no one right answer for the organization, Spectrum Nonprofit’s approach was to help everyone on the team better understand what drives MYSO’s finance and impact. With custom designed tools and a phased set of priorities to build in flexibility, the leadership team was able to implement strategies for increasing their sustainability immediately and will be able to adapt and adjust as needed to continue strengthening their impact in the future.

As a result of the process and tools, the organization better understands its market and has a clear framework for making sound decisions about programs in a strategic manner, with an understanding of the implications of each decision. Their new priorities also allow MYSO to strengthen both short- and long-term sustainability as an organization, while providing context for future growth.

I knew Steve was the right individual to lead us through this process. He is the only consultant that I have worked with who addresses strategic deliberations in this way.

Linda EdelsteinCEO, Milwaukee Youth Symphony Orchestra