Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Cultural Resource Co-ops?

Posted by Claudia Bach On May - 20 - 2011

Claudia Bach

I was at a civic leadership gathering yesterday that focused on issues of community. A couple of things mentioned got me trying to connect ideas I’ve not thought of as being interconnected and trying to imagine how they might play out in support of smaller arts organizations. Since these are just percolating ideas – or really questions – bear with me.

Cooperatives, as a business model, have been around for over 150 years. Here in the Northwest we have a nurtured a number of interesting cooperatives including the hugely successful REI, Group Health (one of the first health care cooperatives), as well as a strong array of food co-ops, some apartments that use that structure, and a smattering of artists’ co-ops including the stalwart Soil Gallery.  Read the rest of this entry »

Scary Policy Conversation and Creative Change

Posted by Margy Waller On May - 20 - 2011

Margy Waller

We’ve all been reading about suggestions for policies to address federal budget issues – including possible big changes to the tax deductibility of contributions to nonprofits. Scary, right? Opportunity, maybe!

Setting aside for a moment the structural and legal issues regarding tax status, nonprofit arts and culture organizations are struggling on the fundraising playing field. Plus, arts organizations are challenged by public perception about the role of arts and charities in community.

We know that when people think about the arts, they’re likely to think first of entertainment. That’s cool – when we are looking for consumers and trying to sell tickets or memberships.

But, when we’re seeking contributions for day-to-day operations – this perception makes our work a lot harder.  Read the rest of this entry »

Preparing for Disaster (Podcast)

Posted by Tim Mikulski On May - 20 - 2011

Robert L. Lynch

Spring has brought a number of devastating natural disasters to our nation—from hundreds of tornadoes across the South in late April to the current flooding of the Mississippi Delta. Americans for the Arts board and staff ask that you keep your effected colleagues in your thoughts.

In our newest podcast, President and CEO of Americans for the Arts Robert L. Lynch addresses these disasters and steps you can take to prepare your organization and community.

You can help your colleagues today by supporting the Red Cross, but you can also help your community by taking what steps you can to prepare for crises that could affect your organization.

Two useful websites offer you both advice and guidance on crisis and disasters that may arise: ArtsReady and CERF+.

If you have tips or advice for handling a crisis or would like to share your thoughts with those affected by recent events, please post them below.

Jeanie Duncan

(Note: This post is a continuation of Part 1 and Part 2 posted earlier this week)

Implementation: A Strategy-Focused Business Model

Our closest stakeholders and constituents had been a part of the research and discovery process with us along the way, participating in information gathering and report-out sessions. While we had been together through this process, changes were going to be significant, and nothing makes reality more sobering than implementation. The change, while it wasn’t easy, was supported by the voice of our community-at-large.

We rolled out our new plan and its supporting tactics beginning in spring 2009. Most notably, we:

•    Recruited new leadership reflecting the diversity of our community.
•    Formed teams to work on launching advisory groups for Hispanic/Latino, African American, and young adults with the goal of building relationships and engaging people in these sectors.  Read the rest of this entry »

Speaking with One Voice

Posted by Paul Miller On May - 20 - 2011

Paul Miller

Per Helena Fruscio’s post from earlier this week (The Creative Economy: Not-Sole-For-Profits-Proprietors) in which she says, “Our power is in numbers and in speaking with one voice” – I wholeheartedly agree!

In 2008, I was in Washington, DC, on a team that consisted of a dancer, a lawyer, a museum executive director (and myself as clown/circus producer) representing the state of Illinois for Arts Advocacy Day. After a day of lobbyist training, I had the chance to sit with three Republican congressmen. Congressman (now Senator) Kirk started the conversation like this – “There are 300 million people in the United States and 110 million taxpayers but we have 8 million still unemployed (as of 3/2008).”  Read the rest of this entry »

The [Fantasy] Basketball Diaries

Posted by Marc Vogl On May - 20 - 2011

Marc Vogl

Does anyone play fantasy sports?

I was in a fantasy basketball league last year. I did terribly – came in last place, a very distant last place.

I got into it partly because I have some interest in following the NBA, mostly because a friend of mine needed a 12th person for his league. But there was a little part of me that decided to try it because I thought I could learn something about how using data can drive decision making and, hopefully, result in success.

For those that haven’t played fantasy sports, it’s a game played with data (or so I thought). The fantasy is that one pretends to be the general manager for a team – hiring and firing players throughout the course of a season. One gains points and competes with others in the fantasy league by selecting real-live players and adding up the various statistics they collect in a week of real-live playing. So, for example (and I promise that I will bring this back to the business of the arts topic that I was asked to write about), if I have Lebron James on my team (you’ve heard of Lebron, right?) I collect points not just for every basket he makes, but for every assist, every steal, every three-pointer, blocked shot, and free throw.  Read the rest of this entry »

The Blurring/Vanishing/Missing Line Between Commercial & Nonprofit

Posted by Diane Ragsdale On May - 20 - 2011

Diane Ragsdale

People have been talking about the blurring line between the commercial and nonprofit arts sectors (and related mission/market tradeoffs) for decades. Some see this line blurring and become concerned; others seem to see it as a natural progression and even a step forward for nonprofits. I’d venture to say that Patron Technology CEO Eugene Carr is in the second camp, based on his recent blog post, “What’s the Secret Sauce Today?”

Here are a few excerpts from his post:

“… more and more, Artistic Directors need to realize they must balance audience needs with the financial needs and mission of the organization, and in these economic times, the mission may have to bend a bit.

Frankly, it’s always a balancing act, but if you’re too mission-oriented, you can end up with something like what we’re witnessing at the City Opera, which essentially abandoned any vestige of its old mission … and instead decided on a radically new approach with nothing but daring new operas.  Read the rest of this entry »

Jeanie Duncan

(Continued from Part 1 posted earlier this week)

Process: Constituency Research Yields Insight

As we surveyed our situation, we knew our approach could not be a typical strategic planning process. Board and staff discussion charted an outside-in strategy for data gathering. Our selected consultant was a branding, PR, and market research firm whose representatives reminded us from the beginning that “it doesn’t matter what you think. What matters is what your customer – the community – thinks.”

With the potential for change to be significant, it was essential that the United Arts Council of Greensboro (UAC) communicate openly, early, and often to the constituents who relied on our funding, as well as their core audiences and supporters. For some agencies,our investment comprised as much as 20 percent of their contributed revenue. Regardless of the percentage, the resource was critical; we wanted to mitigate negative impact while giving historically funded agencies ample lead time for planning and preparation.  Read the rest of this entry »

The Arts Innovation Challenge

Posted by Scott Provancher On May - 19 - 2011

Scott Provancher

Why is it so rare to find successful examples of innovation and entrepreneurism in the arts industry in America? The arts industry, after all, is filled with creative individuals who are working in a country that idolizes the lone entrepreneur business leader (Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, etc…).

After watching this video about Google Art Project and realizing disruptive innovations that could change the way we experience art are not coming from the arts industry, but from for-profit technology companies, I began searching for answers.

Though we often like to believe innovative ideas that turn into successful businesses or products happen from a solitary “eureka” in one person’s head, the fact is that they usually don’t. Organizations and individuals who successfully produce game-changing innovations have very disciplined approaches to nurture creative ideas, assemble the right minds to develop them, put the necessary financial resources behind them, and most importantly are comfortable with taking risks.  Read the rest of this entry »

Stop Pretending You’re an Accountant

Posted by Adam Huttler On May - 19 - 2011

Adam Huttler

For decades now, the conventional wisdom has been practically knee-jerk: if you want to do your own thing in the arts, the first step is to start a 501(c)(3) corporation. I’m not sure this was ever good advice, but I’m positive it’s lousy today.

Don’t get me wrong: the 501(c)(3) model is a great choice if there are visions of marble columns dancing in your head. That’s because the rules and regulations on tax-exempt organizations are predicated on the archetype of a perpetual, quasi-public institution. Like all corporations, 501(c)(3)s by default are immortal; they are designed and expected to outlive the participation of their founders and are difficult to shutdown. Moreover, federal and state-level charity regulations are complex and onerous but generally pretty effective at preventing (or at least mitigating) abuses of the public trust.  Read the rest of this entry »

What is Your Community Benefit?

Posted by Rebecca Novick On May - 19 - 2011

Rebecca Novick

The reason for the tax break for nonprofits is that nonprofits are meant to provide a “community benefit.”

When you apply for nonprofit status, the forms you have to fill out include making a case that the benefit you will provide (often expressed in your mission statement) is worth the state letting go of your potential tax revenue.

If you’re starting a homeless shelter, it’s pretty obvious that it is (“lessening the burden of government” is explicitly listed in the IRS guidelines for exempt purposes). But what about your small theater company? Your chamber ensemble? Your single-choreographer dance company? What are you explicitly doing to (more from the IRS language) relieve the poor and distressed, advance education, and combat community deterioration?

Does art in general help achieve these aims?  Read the rest of this entry »

New Tricks for Old Dogs

Posted by Christy Bolingbroke On May - 19 - 2011

(This title and entry is not meant to insult any one artist, institution, or dog.)

From my perspective, many artists originally incorporated because they saw other people doing it; other people getting grant monies to support their work and determining 501(c)(3) must be the way to go. These same artists somehow persevered, endured, and/or emerged as institutions thirty or forty years later and feel the nonprofit ball-and-chain is something that somehow happened to them. Is this need for alternative models a real issue or is it a midlife crisis for the incorporated arts field?  Read the rest of this entry »

What IS Your Business Model?

Posted by Maud Lyon On May - 19 - 2011

Maud Lyon

Business structures are one thing; business models are another. For all nonprofit arts and culture organizations, there are six sources of revenue: Gifts from individuals; gifts from corporations; foundation grants; government support; earned revenue (tickets or sales, fees for service, rentals, etc.) and investments (including endowments).

Your business structure establishes a foundation and sets the stage. (For all the charitable support, being a 5o1(c)3 is essential. An LC3 would focus more on earned revenue.) However, your business model is the mix of those six sources. Cultural organizations are not all the same – they have a number of different business models, all within the 501(c)3 structure. Each drives different behavior and requires a different attitude. As a thought-starter, here are five ways to think about it. In our experience, most organizations have a mixed model and are not purely one or another.  Read the rest of this entry »

Creativity and Economic Development – Together?!?!

Posted by Helena Fruscio On May - 19 - 2011

Helena Fruscio

To have the creative industry be invited to the top economic development tables is almost unheard of in any community. Let’s face it; classic business development and support organizations can have a hard time wrapping their heads around the value of this dynamic industry. Often, its value is hindered because it is hard to fully quantify the impacts of these businesses and individuals. The quantification is often pieced together from many sources and the numbers never really seem to capture the true dynamism and impact.

The early leadership of Berkshire Creative had the amazing foresight to be inclusive in our definition of the creative economy. The Berkshire Creative Economy Report fully clarifies the different segments of the creative economy and their relationships, which have significant overlap with one another.  Read the rest of this entry »

Circus Mojo – Part Two

Posted by Paul Miller On May - 19 - 2011

Paul Miller

Circus as an industry has been incredibly exploitative.

When I joined the circus as a college drop-out in the late 1990s, the Soviet Union fell and with it, went their highest art form—the circus. Their amazing artists had no support from the government, so American circuses enticed these talented individuals to come to the United States. They were paid thousands of rubles which seemed like a lot of money but was, in fact, only about $50 per week. This is not unusual.

I’ve worked with many Russian and Asian circus teachers who can barely read or write. In 2000, I had a six-month gig in Japan with a fellow performer who could speak seven languages but his agent stole half his fee because he could not read the contract.  Read the rest of this entry »

ARTSblog holds week-long Blog Salons, a series of posts by guest bloggers, that focus on an overarching theme within a core area of Americans for the Arts' work. Here are links to the most recent Salons:

Arts Education

Early Arts Education

Common Core Standards

Quality, Engagement & Partnerships

Emerging Leaders

Taking Communities to the Next Level

New Methods & Models

Public Art

Best Practices


Arts Marketing

Audience Engagement

Winning Audiences

Powered by Community

Animating Democracy

Arts & the Military

Scaling Up Programs & Projects

Social Impact & Evaluation

Humor & Social Change

Private Sector Initatives

Arts & Business Partnerships

Business Models in the Arts

Local Arts Agencies

Cultural Districts

Economic Development

Trends, Collaborations & Audiences

Art in Rural Communities

Alec Baldwin and Nigel Lythgoe talk about the state of the arts in America at Arts Advocacy Day 2012. The acclaimed actor and famed producer discuss arts education and what inspires them.

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