The Mobile Movement

Posted by John Cloys On March - 11 - 20101 COMMENT

Technology and funding forecasters predict that 2010 is the breakthrough year for mobile fundraising. SMS mobile giving is one of the fastest growing fundraising outlets; this brings fundraising to your fingertips in a new and exciting way. This was first made popular by relief efforts for Katrina and has since been used by campaigns such as Share Our Strength, The Salvation Army, UNICIF, and the Obama Presidential Campaign.

This trendy topic amongst fundraisers and charitable organizations will attract a younger donor base that was, until now, virtually unreachable. Even a teenager who receives a modest allowance would have the opportunity to make a difference. Cultivating the younger generation of donors can fuel your fundraising efforts and promote a relationship that will hopefully develop into sustainable giving.

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We recently ran a Creative Economy Workforce grants program with funding provided by the special Community Development Block Grant allocation increase under the Recovery Act (CDBG-R). Quite a mouthful, and quite an ordeal in terms of paperwork to administer. BUT, what operating this program highlighted was the need to move beyond our traditional definition of how we define the arts, and the sorts of activity that is funded or supported. In effect, we are trying to perform sophisticated surgery on the patient with rusty sabers and sledgehammers—our tools are not appropriate to the job we have to do.

Increasingly, creative activity is happening within a for-profit or hybrid context. Many of the most innovative artists studio and live/workspace developments happening in Philadelphia right now are not initiated by nonprofit organizations but by creative entrepreneurs who have identified a market niche and are seeking to fill it. We have a commercial developer looking to create a public sculpture garden because they feel it will add value to their property and help attract and serve their tenants. We have a recycling company that wants to add artist studio space to their recycling plant so artists can work on site with recycled materials. One of our most successful creative economy/technology co-working spaces got started with no government input or support or even any type of philanthropic support.

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The Creation of Adam, Bob Bosch, used with permission

I always dread the first day of classes. I’m currently getting my master’s in operations research and the first day of class is the time when I start to stand out. In every class, we start by going around the room and saying our name and what we do. It usually goes something like: Bob, military employee; Jim, government contractor; Pete, different government contractor… you get the point. Then comes my turn, “Meredith, Americans for the Arts.” Immediately, heads turn and everybody identifies me as the oddball.  

However, there is a growing and little known area of operations research known as “opt art.” This stands for optimization art and this field utilizes optimization algorithms (operations research technology) to make portraits, pictures, and designs. Some of the pictures are created using the classic “traveling salesman problem” where the goal is to reach every point (city) exactly once in the shortest distance. Others are created with knot problems or using a pointillism approach.  

Dr. Bob Bosch is applying this technology to make portraits using dominos. He has made several portraits of famous people (like Marilyn Monroe) and will even make you a customized portrait of your loved one. Read the rest of this entry »

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This week Stanford University released a study on iPhone addiction. The 200 college students surveyed said: “On a scale of one to five, where five is full blown addiction and one is not addicted at all, 10 percent of the respondents ranked themselves as a five, 34 percent a four …”

Now, I am a few years out of college, but I am whole-heartedly addicted to my iPhone. That’s why I was excited to hear about Americans for the Arts’ inclusion in a new free app called CauseWorld (also available for Android). It’s a micro-giving social media app that is easy to use and allows you quickly (and frequently) support your favorite causes. CauseWorld works similar to Foursquare: just open it up when you are near retail stores or local businesses, check-in to receive Karma Points, and then donate those points to one of the featured causes such as bringing art to schools. Karma Points are actually real funds provided by sponsors, Citibank and Kraft foods.

It seems that everyday cell phone apps are opening up new doors for promotion, fundraising, and productivity for those working in the nonprofit arts. So here is my list of the Top 10 iPhone Apps for the Arts.
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Expanding on my first post, we need to:

  1. Identify what business wants from, thinks about, and considers the obstacles, challenges and opportunities to continued, substantive talks between the two sectors, and;
  2. Ascertain what changes in the arts sector’s approach to building meaningful coalitions and collaborative efforts are essential prerequisites to address the business community’s needs. 

This knowledge would help the arts sector to move the status of potential collaborative efforts from the current “conceptual level” to more active status by developing strategies that could move towards specific action steps in fostering working alliances – by designing action steps that are in alignment with stated business needs.   Specifically, it is incumbent on the arts sector to fully understand and appreciate what factors the business community identifies as essential for its involvement to be of benefit to them.

That kind of inquiry might include the following discussions with business: Read the rest of this entry »

Thinking Local

Posted by Mary Trudel On March - 10 - 20105 COMMENTS

As the late Speaker of the House, Tip O’Neill said famously, “all politics are local.” Could this be a lesson for the arts sector? I was interested in a recent article in The New York Times on February 17th about the formidable Huntington Theater in Boston which is charting a new course to become more relevant to its neighbors. Artistic Director, Peter DuBois noted – “The fact is, the artistic and business models of the regional theaters in the 20th century are over, given the costs of creating theater and the competition for people’s time, so I needed to rethink our relationship with our home community.  To thrive we need a theater with work and audiences that look more like the city of Boston in terms of class, age, race, background. And you have to talk to people here to learn how to do that.”

Maybe that’s our answer for this arts-challenged time, listen first, then talk and make sure you speak the local dialect. Read the rest of this entry »

Do what Presidents Do.

The nonprofit marketplace was changed forever by the Obama presidential campaign. Alum of the nonprofit sector, the President used our business model to get elected. In the last month of his campaign, Mr. Obama raised $152 million on the Internet with an average gift of $68.

The business model used by the president reflects a model most of us are familiar with, but don’t use anymore. Before flush corporations stepped up to do “cause marketing” and before we could do multiple events to raise big dollars, most arts nonprofits used their volunteer leaders (Board members) to spread the message. Volunteer leaders are best suited to make friends with high net worth donors, find collaborative opportunities, and engage others by sharing their passion for what you do. In other words they are engaged and invested in the arts.  The President taught us a lesson by having groups of people in communities across America rally around a message of change, make a contribution, and go find others who would do the same thing. Read the rest of this entry »

by Kristin Symes

The James Joyce Pub

The James Joyce Pub, just a short walk from the Baltimore Marriott Waterfront.

Wondering what the food is going to be like in Baltimore this summer when you come to visit during the Annual Convention? It should come as no surprise that a city generating so much buzz about its recent growth and downtown development also boasts some of the greatest chefs and cuisine to match. It’s as if Baltimore has experienced a gastronomic renaissance. The locally grown culinary scene has sprouted a new crop of extraordinary restaurants for you to harvest.

Baltimore has an emerging culinary scene and is quickly becoming a hot spot for foodies from around the globe. With culinary accolades appearing in Gourmet, Food & Wine, and Bon Appétit, and with two Baltimore chefs recently featured on The Food Network’s hit show, Top Chef, it’s clear that Baltimore is finally gaining the culinary recognition it deserves.

Local restaurants feature sophisticated and original menus that embrace the farm-to-table concept. No longer is Baltimore thought of as only the home of the crab cake (although we do have the best!). The city’s progressive compilation of cutting-edge eateries pedaling fresh, funky-fusion recipes like crispy Thai string beans, lobster mac and artisan beers has put Baltimore on the map as an up-and-coming culinary city not to be missed. Read the rest of this entry »

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In January, The San Francisco Foundation and Grants for the Arts, with support from The Wallace Foundation, hosted a daylong Dynamic Adaptability Conference.  Over 700 community members attended, learning from creative thinkers from the arts, neuroscience, business, media, and philanthropy.

Neuroscientist Jonah Lehrer encouraged us to reclaim our value proposition and have faith in our stories.  His research on meta-cognition drew upon many examples of artists.  Lehrer also stressed the importance of building in periods of relaxation as part of the creative process, cautioning when people get too focused on solving a particular problem, this often results in being ‘locked in’.

James Rucker from Color of Change and Hugo Morales from Radio Bilingüe called for rethinking relationships to audiences and donors and forming deeper and more authentic connections to communities.  Merely broadcasting invitations isn’t enough in the socially engaged, interactive, high-touch, and multi-platform online environment. Read the rest of this entry »

Continuing from my first blog post

Feeling like we’d leveled off in our effort to build broad support for the arts, we decided to get more information. We studied how people think about the arts — that is, we engaged in some real research over the past 18 months. With this information, we’re crafting a new communications strategy—one built on a deeper understanding of the best ways to communicate about the arts—that we believe will lead to increased shared responsibility and motivate action in support of the arts.

In order to create a more constructive dialog, we had to explore the dynamics of the current public conversation—in the media, for instance—as well as in the thinking of the majority of people who do not focus on the arts in their daily lives. Understanding attitudes and beliefs more deeply is a key to negotiating them more successfully in future efforts. A new argument, or lens, on the issue is useful to the extent that it can move people to a collective perspective and shared action in support of the arts.

When legislators, business leaders, community leaders, and others all take in the same core message seen through the same lens—and in turn repeat them to their own constituencies—the resulting echo chamber can begin to transform the accepted common sense on the issue. Read the rest of this entry »

The first question (suggested topic) posed for this panel blogging on the Private Sector relationship was: How to define the relevance of the arts to business in the face of urgent and basic social needs. Once again we make the mistake of always approaching the business relationship from the perspective of our needs and not theirs. It is, think, an arrogant conceit and a strategic misstep to always approach this issue from what we want and need.

For three decades, the nonprofit arts sector has been seeking – with very limited success – to capitalize on intersections between it and the corporate / business community. The vast majority of efforts in this arena have been small and localized (i.e., individual arts organizations attempting to build bridges and form partnerships / alliances on individual, isolated projects, often limited to seeking corporate sponsorships; or Arts & Business Council/Business Committee for the Arts initiatives, for which arts organizations have shown far more enthusiasm than businesses). Larger forays into the promotion of sector wide collaborations have principally been limited to periodic dialogue characterized by the most general of precepts; lacking specificity, strategic / practical next steps, and any timeline for the accomplishment of specific agenda items.  Read the rest of this entry »

The increasing globalisation and interconnectedness of our societies and our economies means that the trends here in the UK and those in US are not wholly different from each other. Consumers on both sides of the Atlantic are becoming increasingly demanding, culturally literate and media savvy. To engage with such customers and to retain their loyalty, businesses must create meaningful consumer experiences which, in turn, require those businesses to be more authentic, trustworthy and transparent.

This, we believe, is changing the nature and scope of the relationship between the private sector and the arts. The appetite within businesses in the UK to engage with the arts is still strong, as they recognise both the direct and indirect benefits of doing so (cultural attendances increased by 12% in 08/09), although obviously the financial level at which they are able to commit is being challenged by the current economy climate (with a decrease of 6% in business investment to the arts in 08/09).

To maintain this, however, we need to continually explore new ways in which the business and arts sectors can work together.

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A story – sometime in the early 1970’s when I was the managing director of a non-profit theatre, a group of us were sitting around during a LORT or TCG meeting bemoaning the high cost of producing a Shakespeare – too many actor salaries, AEA restrictions on non-members, and so on. We even complained, probably following an adult beverage or two, that even the ghost of Hamlet’s father probably needed and equity contract.

One comment led to another and since science fiction and special effects were beginning to actually become real tools, the idea of the ghost as a hologram was put forth.  Yes holograms were static, fuzzy, and still mostly unknown but we did not let that sidetrack us.

Then the brainstorm!!  What if holographic technology were really practical. Let your imagine feast on this. 25 different theatres allover the country would collaborate on a major Shakespeare play. Each theatre would hire only one actor (cost saving there, eh!). The production would take place simultaneously in all cities and in each theatre every character save one would be a hologram!! And the audience would not be able to tell the real from the virtual. Now that’s disintermediation! Read the rest of this entry »

When talking about private sector or corporate funding .… it occurred to me that we toss around the word corporation like there is one person on the other end of that word. And indeed, corporation is derived from the Latin word for body “corpus”, with one definition of corporation as ‘any group of persons united or regarded as united in one body’.

However, for the arts organizations that seek funding in today’s environment, this definition poses a conundrum. Who is the corpus in corporation? In the recent past, arts support might have come through a champion in the company’s executive offices, or through the corporate foundation. It was easier to navigate the decision maker (s) for philanthropic support when funding dollars were coming from one source.

But corporations are not made up of one individual. They are made of many individuals, just as the definition states. These individuals are in positions of authority. They have their own operating budgets, their own P&L statements, and decide, on a day to day basis, the budget dollars spent. Read the rest of this entry »

Most of the marketing in the last half of the 20th century was focused on associative marketing. A friend of mine refers to this as “be there or be square” marketing. This was usually demonstrated by making something so compelling that we all wanted to have it, be a part of it, use it, or do it. Running alone in the cold rain at 5:30 AM seems like a crazy idea, but Nike made it sound so simple — just do it. And, smoking may not have been very attractive but the Marlboro Man sure as heck was.

The arts were marketed the same way. We told everyone who would listen that the arts were important and that they had a positive impact on our communities, businesses, and individuals. We promoted the arts in relationship to economics, education, cultural tourism, civic pride, regional visibility, etc. We presented the arts as compelling and we explained how bereft we would all be without the arts.

The 21st century question seems to be: Are the arts relevant? Are we relevant to businesses, cities and individuals?

Consumers have more power today than ever before. Their power is due in part to the speed with which we communicate and in the strength of sheer numbers. Thanks to the Internet, with its viral communication and social networking, consumers can now make or break products in the amount of time it used to take to write the first press release.

This situation requires we do much more listening than talking. We need to hear what our businesses, communities, neighborhoods, and individuals are saying about what is relevant to their lives and how they choose to live and do business.  And, we need to be open to change.