No two are exactly alike. Each has its own strengths and challenges. Some are well funded Departments of Cultural Affairs. Some are small organizations with a shoe string budget. The rest fall somewhere in between.
We land into the category of being created in our city’s charter but stand as a separate 501(c)3 nonprofit organization.
What this means is we have to fundraise to deliver our programs and services and partner as often as possible. Both require patience, flexibility, and an innovative mindset to extend our reach into the community and get the arts to the people.
Partnership is often talked about like a simple and obvious solution; however, those that have taken it on know just what may lie in the details.
Partnerships in fundraising, especially cross sector, can prove even more challenging. But they CAN work.
As we enter into 2012, The Arts Commission will be heading into its second year fundraising partnership with ProMedica, a locally-owned nonprofit healthcare organization, and its subset the Toledo Children’s Hospital Foundation. This joint effort combines the agency’s efforts with the Autism Collaborative to centralize services for children with autism and their families and the Arts Commission’s mission.
The initial irony for us was that they approached the arts commission for this partnership. The reason they did is partly due to patient years of relationship building (with us benefiting from their financial and in-kind support) with a meaningful exchange of values.
The bigger driver was the shared board leadership and the vision that can happen when your trustees see across organizational mission and the community and then leverage their networks for the greater good.
Our board members noticed the role arts played in the nurturing of autistic children and embraced this connection in the spectrum of their passions. This recognition proved a strong and demonstrative example of the arts’ ability to bring value to other sectors and spoke to the power of true collaboration.
The event was titled “Art & Autism” and the stories and statistics of the evening are great to tell.
For example, we shared our audiences and support bases and broadened the awareness of our missions. We reduced the event infrastructure costs with a single event and put more revenue back into the community. A total of $191,783 (65% Toledo Children’s Hospital Foundation/ 35% Arts Commission split) was raised, with an additional $45,750 in direct payments to local artists.
However, the real benefit was that both sides learned how collaboration works.
While both of our organizations profited financially there was a deeper exchange of values. Through a flexible and innovative partnership in fundraising, which includes the challenging issues of approaching shared donors, we brought more resources to bear for the community, and offered our respective supporters access to valuable new networks and resources.
As we head into the future, we’re looking at ourselves and the range of our community organizations — be they arts related or not — to focus on our similarities, not our differences. Though the alignment in mission and aesthetic isn’t always obvious, by embracing partnership, we discover the commonality of our values will drive us forward.
After all, though each unique, snowflakes never fall alone.