Suzan Jenkins, CEO of the Arts & Humanities Council of Montgomery County, moderated a convention panel on creative methods for growing new funding born out of the experiences of the recession. The rise of online funding campaigns, emphasis on creating partnerships with businesses and, more radically, treat all philanthropic support as start-up funding and don’t rely on it for core operating income were some of the ideas explored. The consensus was to, remain flexible but, above all, stay true to your mission.
Maud Lyon, executive director of the Cultural Alliance of Southeastern Michigan, used the Community Foundation Challenge in Detroit as an example of the challenges and best practices for online giving/day of arts giving campaigns. A major goal of the Challenge was to raise awareness for the arts and culture sector.
Referencing it as “Glitches to Riches,” Maud said the Challenge program raised $4,992,000 million for 75 organizations in one day. While the larger organizations raised higher dollar amounts, smaller organizations raised a higher proportion of their budget size. Existing donors were the mainstay of the Challenge (59 percent), but the Challenge brought in a significant number of new donors as well (28 percent).
Lessons learned by the arts community include: the importance of being prepared with technology and social networking in order to be able to respond quickly to challenge opportunities; the future of online giving is with younger donors; and, convenience, ease, flexibility and lack of pressure are the appeals of online commerce.
Maud emphasized the necessity of a good donor database and an excellent donor stewardship program. She personally donated to twelve different organizations during the Challenge, received very few thank you letters, and only three of the twelve followed up the following year for new donations. Lost opportunities!
3-Legged Dog Media + Theatre Group in Manhattan not only suffered the loss of their facility on 9/11, they also saw a 92 percent drop in foundation funding and a 67 percent decrease in government support between FY 09 and FY 10. Kevin Cunningham, executive artistic director, believes that the current economic climate demands that we all take radical steps toward a long-term revision of operating assumptions.
Here is 3-Legged Dog’s plan:
- Refocus on mission
- Build new assets (media and design services-based earned revenue)
- Increase earned revenue (907% increase in earned income between FY09 and FY12 )
- Increase government funding from international sources (contributions in place from Danish, Norwegian, Spanish, and British partners).
- New alliances in progress with Germany, France, The Netherlands, Belgium, and the Czech Republic
- Strengthen our flexible, responsive governance structure by rebuilding a streamlined, efficient entrepreneurial board.
- Be aggressive–use assets. You can’t “cut” your way out of disaster (have cut budget by 50 percent but with no program cuts or delays)
- Grow! (multiple new partnerships and long term contracts—many new partners across disciplines and sectors. Caveat: only partner with people who share your mission!
- Act tactically, opportunistically, and entrepreneurially (flexible space scheduling, re-imagine artistic, technical and business networks and collaborative structures as a resource)
- Spend as you go, spend to grow (no new debt incurred since FY 08—on demand labor model in place)
- Treat all philanthropic support as start-up funding (no reliance on philanthropy for core operating income)
- Build and leverage non-monetary assets: talent, facilities, and equipment
- Don’t compete. We are not a competitive business. Cooperate and collaborate!
To Kevin’s last point, he created the Lower Manhattan Arts Stabilization Fund to help member organizations resolve capital and disaster related debt.
Laura Adlers, national program manager for Business for the Arts of Canada, introduced artsVest, a Canadian national program now in its second year. artsVest is a national sponsorship training and matching incentive program created by Business for the Arts of Canada and funded in Ontario by the Government of Ontario, Ontario Trillium Foundation, and Canadian Heritage.
artsVest is designed to stimulate innovative business sponsorship and corporate engagement in arts and culture. The program is helping to build healthy, prosperous and creative communities across Canada by teaching small and midsized arts and culture organizations how to forge successful, long-term partnerships with the private sector. In addition, artsVest provides matching incentive grants for new sponsorships raised by participating organizations to spark local business support of arts and culture.
You will be able view this 2012 Annual Convention session and many others via our Convention On-Demand service which will be available in about a month, but you can pre-order and preview several sessions on the site now.