Business partnerships with arts organizations are a key factor in enhancing the vitality of our communities nationwide. Americans for the Arts supports a network of Arts & Business Council Affiliates (ABC), Business Committee for the Arts affiliates (BCA), United Arts Fund affiliates (UAF) and Local Arts Agencies that work to build private-sector support for the arts. Learn more.
We knew any presentation by actors from The Second City, Chicago’s world-famous improvisation troupe, would be funny. But who knew we would walk away with key insights into creating a collaborative work environment?
Yet that’s exactly what happened after we participated in an exercise led by Second City actors Colleen Murray and Mark Sutton at our recent Client Summit. Murray and Sutton asked us and the 200 other participants to break into groups of three for an exercise that taught us a valuable lesson about the power of positive reinforcement in fostering creativity and innovation.
The exercise started off with an imagined scenario: plan a memorable company party. One person in each group was designated as the party planner. Their task? Come up with some creative party ideas. The other two members were instructed to listen to each new idea, but then reject it and explain why. The negative responses had a chilling effect on the person pitching new ideas. Even the most creative types gave up after four or five ideas. They lost their ability to come up with anything in the face of all that negativity.
Next, Murray and Sutton instructed the three-person groups to rotate roles. Now a new person pitched ideas while the other two listened. But this time, instead of rejecting the ideas outright, the listeners were instructed to use a more subtle “yes, but…” response and share why the idea wouldn’t work. Again, it was a frustrating experience for the idea givers, who quit after trying a few times and getting nowhere.
Finally, the groups were instructed to rotate roles again. This time the two listeners were to use the phrase “yes, and…” to acknowledge, affirm, and build on the idea. The “yes, and…” response made all the difference. Ideas flowed. The groups generated innovative, creative approaches that none of the individuals would have come up with on their own. The increase in energy and collaboration was palpable as the room buzzed with animated conversations, laughing, high fives, and every other behavior you would expect to see when people are genuinely engaged with each other. Read the rest of this entry »
Listen closely please; do you hear those words of a famous quote from Shakespeare in your community? Look over there; do you see a young lady in a white leotard elegantly positioned on just one toe? Is your breath taken away from the musical notes and talents of the lyrical soprano singing effortlessly on stage?
Or do your spirit, mind and body travel to unknown worlds when engulfed by the combination of horns, keys and drums playing in a symphony? Do you tear up, laugh, or get angry over shades of paint arranged by brushes? Well you should, not only for cultural awareness but for real estate value as well.
When communities invest in the arts they are fueling economic growth, creating jobs, increasing property values and making their communities more attractive to young professionals who want to start a career or business, a family, and home environment. These young professionals are increasingly driven by quality of life and cultural amenities in their cities of choice. The most famous of theatre districts of course is Broadway! “Besides New York, the popularity of Broadway theatre has spread to Chicago, Los Angeles and other major cities in the US. It is the highest level of commercial theatre in the English-speaking world. It is followed by West End theatre in London” stated Author David Corn. He also states that Ticket sales on Broadway exceed 1.5 billion dollars annually.
The Woodruff Arts Center’s in Downtown Atlanta is one of the nation’s largest arts institutions, and the art and education programs it creates. This year’s record campaign goal is $9.5 million, representing approximately 10% of the Woodruff Art Center’s overall operating budget. Detached Homes being sold in a one mile radius of the Woodruff Arts Center cap out at $3.5 million and when you consider those homes attached such as condo’s and townhomes well you get top dollar at $1.8 million. Read the rest of this entry »
In a recent episode of Boardwalk Empire, Chalky White’s wife was angry because he took his son to play with Jazz musicians at his nightclub. She feared that it would upset the order of his classical training. Traditionally, business executives have felt the same way. They would bring in bright young prospects and make them “organization men”—and later women as well—who would work their way up through the system and then indoctrinate the next generation.
Yet the past few decades have altered things considerably. The LBO craze in the 80’s, the PC revolution in the 90’s and the digital disruptions of the 21st century have radically changed how we need to approach business problems. Strategic planning has become less tenable and we need to adopt more adaptive approach. Jazz holds important answers.
A Struggling Artist In New York
Coming from a meager background, Carl Størmer was determined not to be a starving artist, but after graduating with two graduate degrees—a Masters degree in Music and another in Arts Administration—that’s just what he was becoming. He spent most of his time playing in clubs and improving the mastery of his craft, but making very little money.
So he started learning computer code, got a job as a database consultant at a Wall Street law firm and then started a career at IBM. Later, he founded a startup and became Marketing Director at a Norwegian airline. Størmer had, in every conventional sense, become a successful business executive.
Yet he still continued to play and the more he did, the more he became dissatisfied with corporate life. As he thought about it, he realized that business organizations operated a lot like classical music, with structure dictating action rather than the other way around.
The thoughts turned to writing; the writing turned to consulting and even led to a Harvard Case Study. Today, his organization, Jazzcode, works with executives at some of the world’s largest corporations, such as IBM, Siemens and Novartis. Read the rest of this entry »
The 5 Things You Might Not Be Doing When Considering a Business pARTnership (from the pARTnership Movement)
At the pARTnership Movement, we think it’s fantastic that you are considering the benefits of an arts and business partnership, and that you’re sharing the values we have ignited through the 8 reasons businesses partner with the arts. But we understand that the road is long and winding, and there are pitfalls along the way. That’s why we have composed this list of the 5 things you might not be doing when considering such a partnership, and examples of how to best start.
1. Are you even asking?
According to the BCA National Survey of Business Support for the Arts, of the 600-plus small, midsize and large businesses surveyed, 66% of businesses that don’t give to the arts stated that they were not even asked to contribute to the arts—that is two-thirds! It is our responsibility to deliver the message to businesses that the arts can help build their competitive advantage, so write those letters, set up those meetings, attend chamber of commerce meetings and make those connections—start building relationships now.
Your first instinct as an arts organization may be to run to the nearest bank or local industry giant to seek support for your programming, but according to the BCA Survey, small and midsize businesses contribute 82% of the total contributions to the arts. Exemplary examples of small and midsize business partnerships include Caramel Boutique, a DC-based clothing store that is redefining the U Street corridor as an arts destination by hosting free art shows for local artists on a monthly basis, and the Pfister Hotel in Milwaukee, which turns its guests’ stay into a work of art through its Artist-in-Residence program. Download our tool-kit, “Creating pARTnerships with Small and Midsize Businesses,” as a useful resource. Read the rest of this entry »
Rosie’s Theatre Kids (RTKids) was given a rare opportunity to advertise in Condé Nast publications at no cost to the organization. RTKids had a chance to take full-page, color advertisements in some of the most-read publications in US, but had no marketing team to strategize placement, or copywriter and designer to create the ad. They needed to submit the advertisement within two weeks.
This was the quick, first project I was given as a new participant in the Arts & Business Council of New York’s Business Volunteers for the Arts™ program. As a consultant in the areas of communications and business development for clients in the arts, this was fun and very familiar territory.
Increasingly, donors are more willing and able to give in-kind contributions (non-cash donations of good or services). According to an annual report created by CECP in association with The Conference Board entitled Giving in Numbers: 2013 Edition the “direct cash donations dominated at 47% of total giving in 2012, non-cash contributions have been growing at a faster rate of 10% or more in each year since 2008.” This means that organizations, like RTKids, sometimes receive a donation that does not directly support their bottom line as a monetary contribution would.
In my initial meeting with RTKids, many questions came up about how to maximize this special opportunity. What was the best message for the ad? How could RTKids summarize the organization’s mission in a way that would grab attention and drive home the impact of their work? How could RTKids get the ad in front of potential supporters? And lastly, but perhaps most importantly, would they encourage donations by advertising this way? Read the rest of this entry »
Successful collaborations between brands and artists are possible, once outdated preconceptions are overcome.
The poetry of ancient Persia is full of bridges. In the works of Rumi and others, metaphors are the bridges of art, in the sense that they unite two seemingly irreconcilable things. They give people a route to make sense of an alien world or concept by relating it to something familiar. They illuminate by association: here is how this world connects directly to that other, seemingly isolated world. Bridges also represent journeys between states of being, rather than just a means of get from A to B. For example, the Persian belief that people in the west are perhaps too far over on the prose side of the bridge, while the east is too drawn to the poetry side. If only we could meet in the middle, we might find a perfect balance of mind and body, of calculation and creativity.
That idea of two cultures stuck at either ends of the same bridges could be applied to art and business today. They need each other, despite their apparent differences; they are concerned with many of the same things, but that is obscured by their mutual suspicion. Perhaps a bit more metaphor and magic would be a start in changing this state of affairs. If arts practitioners and brands had the same big, captivating idea to focus on, cultural differences would be pushed to the side and more worthwhile collaborations would surely result. Read the rest of this entry »
Study Underscores Health, Wellness, and Career Benefits of Volunteering (from The pARTnership Movement)
It’s no secret within the nonprofit sector that volunteers are often the difference between “make” and “break,” the special sauce that keeps an organization moving forward, delivering against its mission, serving its constituents. From hands-on volunteers to skills-based volunteers to the volunteer leaders who serve on boards, it’s almost impossible to calculate the value that those who give back add to the sector. So it’s nice to know that those who volunteer benefit from the experience as well.
A national survey of 3,351 adults conducted by Harris Interactive on behalf of UnitedHealth Group demonstrates that volunteering is good for your health. Here are some of the takeaways from this research:
- Volunteers say they feel better—physically, mentally and emotionally—than non-volunteers
- Volunteering helps people manage and lower stress levels
- Volunteers feel a deeper connection to communities and others
- Volunteers are more informed healthcare consumers and are more engaged and involved in taking care of their own health
If you work with volunteers—or if you are one yourself—those first three points are probably not very surprising. The fourth is perhaps a bit unexpected, but the report includes some interesting data around this topic, including people who report that volunteering helps them cope with a chronic illness and/or helps them take their minds off their own problems. Survey respondents who volunteer scored better than those that don’t on nine well-established measures of emotional well-being. Read the rest of this entry »
Today I’m writing from my desk in Brooklyn, as the founder and artistic director of Theatre of the Oppressed NYC (TONYC). TONYC, 2+ years old and growing, partners with local communities including homeless adults, immigrants and LGBTQ homeless youth to create and tour original plays inspired by real‐life struggles. Our interactive performances engage audiences in creative problem‐solving and transformative action.
Back in the summer of 2010, I was working as a freelance teaching artist. One of my employers, a girls leadership initiative, was funded in part by Eileen Fisher, the women’s clothing company. All I knew then about EF was that zen-looking women wore flowy clothes in the NY Times ads that my mother and I had always admired. Then I got a call asking if I’d come up to Westchester, where EF’s headquarters are located. The EF Community Foundation had heard that the Theatre of the Oppressed course was very popular down in the city, and invited me to teach in their pilot Leadership Institute, modeled after the same program they funded in NYC. I immediately noticed a special vibe; the first day I walked into the EF headquarters, the janitor whispered to me: “I love working here: shhh, don’t tell anyone.”
I was excited about the work Eileen was doing around girls’ and women’s leadership (being an emerging leader myself, as well as a young woman). The company was similarly excited by the Theatre of the Oppressed methodology I brought, and how it connected the young women to each other and to their communities, through identifying and transforming collective challenges. At the performance I facilitated that summer, Eileen spoke about the importance of investing in the confidence and creativity of young women, sparked by the challenges she faced when starting the company 30 years before. I didn’t know yet that I’d soon be running a growing arts-and-social-justice nonprofit, and that I would sometimes struggle to find my own confidence as a young, female leader. Read the rest of this entry »
Two recent articles make the case for strategic corporate philanthropy. And while the authors come at the topic from different angles, they agree that when corporate foundation or corporate social responsibility leaders align programs with causes that matter to their businesses, the investments yield many types of dividends.
Christine Park, president of the New York Life Foundation, offers the example of the impact her organization has had in addressing childhood bereavement. She notes that while as many as one in seven Americans loses a parent or sibling before age 20, grieving children are a surprisingly overlooked group. Since New York Life deals with families in times of grief, this cause resonates with people throughout the organization. As she explains, “…we practice advocacy with a lower-case ‘a’—with a focus on raising awareness, education, and public concern for issues where there is a clear and compelling need and little rational dispute as to the merits of the issue.”
Since adopting the “under-attended-to issue” of grieving children, the foundation has been able not only to invest resources (more than $13 million since 2007) in supporting grieving children, they’ve also been able to shine a bright spotlight on the topic and shape the national conversation about the needs of these children. They’ve forged strong partnerships with a number of leading nonprofits in the field, such as the Moyer Foundation and the National Center for School Crisis and Bereavement, and fostered alliances across nonprofits in this category. Read the rest of this entry »
Corporate Funding Came Back After the Recession, But Did it Leave the Arts Behind? (from The pARTnership Movement)
While a new report shows that the global recession shifted funding away from the arts, is there a silver lining in how companies have changed their view of investing in communities? CECP, in association with The Conference Board, recently released Giving in Numbers: 2013 Edition, an annual analysis of corporate giving trends among the world’s largest businesses. Despite a slow economic recovery, the majority of companies gave more in 2012 than in 2007, before the recession, yet the majority of funders decreased their funding of the arts. Companies decreased arts funding annually in each year from 2007 to 2012. The steepest declines occurred in 2008 and 2009, at the height of the global recession.
The news is not all bad for arts organizations. While the majority of arts funders have decreased funding, many continue their support today. In fact, behind only education and health and social services organizations, more companies supported the arts than any other program area in 2012, albeit at lower financial levels (Giving in Numbers, page 20). Revenues and profits have increased for large businesses since 2009, and giving budgets are expected to grow in coming years.
The shift away from the arts is likely related to many factors and trends occurring across the corporate philanthropy field. Companies aim to drive measurable societal impact with each grant, and many focus efforts on single program areas with the hope of moving the needle on specific societal problems. So why haven’t arts agencies reaped the benefits of an increased focus on individual program areas? Based on our research, there are a variety of reasons. Most notably:
- The Recession: During the recession it was no surprise that the fastest growing program area was community and economic development. The world’s largest businesses aimed to support community efforts to rejuvenate local economies. The hope was that economic growth, no matter how small, could spur consumer confidence and pay dividends for companies in the long-run. Many companies prioritized these programs over arts initiatives in the last half decade.
- Education Issues in America: CECP’s research sample is global but 92% of companies are based in the United States and focus the majority of funds domestically. In 2012, education support topped the list of program areas supported by large businesses for the first time since CECP first published Giving in Numbers in 2006. American students are falling behind global peers in math and science achievement, and companies are concerned about the future of the American employee base. In addition, the racial achievement gap in student test scores (click here for more information) spotlights the social justice factors that are at stake when dealing with education programs.
- Non-Cash Giving: In-kind contributions, consisting primarily of product donations and pro bono service, accounted for more than 95% of aggregate giving growth from 2007 to 2012. Arts agencies often have fewer opportunities to work with bulk product donations; only 4% of corporate contributions to arts agencies came in the form of non-cash gifts in 2012. See Figure 11 (page 20) for more details. Read the rest of this entry »
I like to call them “pop-up think tanks” – informal gatherings to discuss serious topics in innovative ways and from unstodgy new perspectives. They’re all over the Twin Cities, from the lively gatherings organized by our friends at Works Progress and the Ignite Minneapolis talks to Tane Danger’s Theater of Public Policy and the new Twin Cities branch of the international House of Genius project. They’re inspired, I think, by a widespread sense that meeting and talking in the same old ways to the same old folks is getting us nowhere in an era of proliferating problems and sclerotic institutions.
I had the pleasure of taking part in a new one just last week.
A year and a half ago I wrote a short piece for The Line about my visit to a remarkable institution in Omaha, Nebraska, called KANEKO. Named for its founder, Japanese-born and Omaha-based sculptor and international art-star Jun Kaneko, it’s a space where artists, creativity consultants, businesspeople, performers, and scientists come together to explore creativity across the boundaries of disciplines via talks, performances, and free-form discussions.
After the piece ran, I got a call out of the blue from a dynamic woman named Katy Gaynor, a fundraiser, development consultant, and arts advocate here in the Twin Cities who had read the piece. Among the many things Katy and I discovered we had in common was an interest in fostering creativity and helping artists bring their skill-sets to bear on other areas of life, like business. Katy told me that she wished the Twin Cities had its own version of KANEKO.
Plans for a Dialogue
In the months since that conversation, Katy has been busy making her hopes real by putting together a team of sharp colleagues to organize what the group dubbed the “Art and Business Dialogue X-Change,” a large invited gathering of some of our community’s most prominent artists, business people, and artist-businesspeople to talk about how the arts and business could break down barriers that separate them.
It took place last Thursday, July 25, in the beautiful conference room of the McKnight Foundation, and it attracted local A-listers like Gülgün Kayim, Director of Arts, Culture, and Creative Economy for the City of Minneapolis; public artist Ta-Coumba Aiken; and actor and Jeune Lune alumnus Steve Epp, to name just three of the fifty or so distinguished attendees. Read the rest of this entry »
How many of Richmond’s corporate executives make art in their spare time? What percentage paint landscapes or play in a band or write poetry? Are their artistic pursuits of any real value to their companies? Does the fact that a corporate executive creates sculpture affect the bottom line of that corporation? A new survey of 271 Richmond, VA executives offers some answers.
First the context. The 2004 publication of Richard Florida’s The Rise of the Creative Class ushered in a pervasive corporate understanding of the value of “creativity” to corporate success – to a company’s bottom line. Creativity has become an essential theme in corporate strategy sessions, team-building exercises, and leadership training.
But there is an ingredient that is sometimes absent from conversations and research concerning creativity in the corporate workplace: art-making. While the corporate world values “creativity” as an important attribute for its executives to have, “art maker” may not be considered as a similarly important attribute. But while creativity is an attribute that is subjective and hard to identify, art maker is an objective attribute that is easily identified.
During the first half of 2013 CultureWorks administered a two-question survey that was completed by 271 Richmond corporate executives including some of the region’s topmost executives, members of the Greater Richmond Chamber, members of Rotary, and members of the Richmond Association for Business Economics. Read the rest of this entry »
Recently, I attended the opening of the Kansas City Chiefs’ new art installation at Arrowhead Stadium. Initiated by Sharron Hunt, and developed with assistance from local experts Jacqueline Chanda, President of the Kansas City Art Institute; Barbara O’Brien, Director of Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art, Julián Zugazagoitia, Director and CEO, Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art; and the Sherry Leedy and Dolphin Galleries, the collection features eleven works by regional artists. As an arts enthusiast, I was pleased to see the Chiefs’ send a clear signal to the community that they value the arts as an important cultural amenity.
Most people would agree that having a sports team, like the Chiefs, is important to our region and the same is true of the arts. Everybody benefits from the vibrancy of our arts scene, regardless of their level of participation. And kudos to the KC Chiefs’ for selecting fine art pieces by artists with roots in the region and national reputations. Our region has many accomplished artists and I am so pleased to see them getting the attention they deserve. Read the rest of this entry »
CultureWorks is the privately-funded nonprofit organization that serves as the local arts agency for Richmond, Virginia. Although it is only the nation’s 43rd largest city, Richmond has a significant business community as evidenced by it being the headquarters for 11 Fortune 1000 companies – 6 of which are F500s.
Five ongoing strategies have helped CultureWorks engage good relationships between Richmond’s arts and business communities:
1) CultureWorks is an active member of the Greater Richmond Chamber. “Active” includes volunteering for committees, paying to be part of the annual 3-day InterCity Visit, and attending Chamber gatherings – all of which help to establish and strengthen personal relationships.
2) CultureWorks publishes reports on its activities and accomplishments and makes sure that business leaders read the reports with interest. I snail-mail a hardcopy of each report to several dozen business leaders, and I attach a hand-written personalized sticky note that has a message such as, “Frank – Good to see you last week. I’ve highlighted a couple of things on this report that you might find interesting.” It’s a lot of work preparing 50 or more of these letters, but the personalized notes cause this to be a communication that the business leaders do read.
3) CultureWorks invites business leaders to volunteer isolated segments of their time to serve on short-term project-specific committees and task teams. Examples include the review panels for the CultureWorks Grants Program and our metrics task team. This not only builds relationships, but also gives the corporate participants a first-hand look at the value of the arts. Read the rest of this entry »
Warren Buffet had it right when he committed to giving away more than half his money to charity. “If you’re in the luckiest one percent of humanity, you owe it to the rest of humanity to think about the other 99 percent.” And, indeed, 86% of the $316 billion giving reported in 2012, is by individuals, says Giving USA, an arm of Indiana University. Buffett’s motivation seems to be about social justice, but it is also about social good. He appears to be a guy who believes in creating opportunity for others and in doing so, fuels ideas, innovations, and projects that ultimately have an economic impact on society.
In a new book, entitled “Why Philanthropy Matters,” Zoltan J. Acs advocates that the benefit of philanthropy is that it nurtures innovation and entrepreneurship which is essential for prosperity. I thought about this connection between entrepreneurship and philanthropy as I pondered a new national study put out by Americans for the Arts in which some 600 corporations of all sizes were surveyed. Bearing in mind that corporate funds are only 6% of the total giving pie, on the bright side, the survey reports that corporate giving to the arts from 2009 through 2012 is up by 18% – reversing some, but certainly not all, of the losses during the height of the recession. That is heartening.
What got my head spinning, however, is that 82% of this support comes from businesses with less that $50 million in revenue. Even more startling is that 47% of that support comes from corporations with less than $1 million in revenue. Perhaps it’s wishful thinking on my part, but this focus by small business on local markets does seems to underscore the affinity that already exists between the arts and entrepreneurship, based in part upon the fact that training in the arts leads to solving problems creatively. Or, as Warren Buffet said it: “Someone’s sitting in the shade today because someone planted a tree a long time ago.”
(This post, originally published on This and That by JL, is one in a weekly series highlighting The pARTnership Movement, Americans for the Arts’ campaign to reach business leaders with the message that partnering with the arts can build their competitive advantage. Visit our website to find out how both businesses and local arts agencies can get involved!)