Sharing Shifts in Evaluation from the Funder Exchange

Posted by Joanna Chin On September - 6 - 2013
Joanna Chin

Joanna Chin

A May 22 Funder Exchange on Evaluating Arts & Social Impact, presented by Americans for the Arts’ Animating Democracy program and hosted by the Nathan Cummings Foundation, brought together 32 funders, evaluation professionals, and arts practitioners to learn about concrete approaches and measures funders use to understand the impact of arts and social change investments. We heard case studies are using from Crossroads Fund in Chicago about its Social Movements Development model, the J.W. McConnell Family Foundation about its use of Developmental Evaluation, as well as from the Fledgling Fund and Porch Light Initiative, part of the Mural Arts Program in Philadelphia.

At least within this group, evaluation is no longer viewed as a necessary evil, or worse, an empty exercise. Funders and practitioners alike shared examples of shifts in thinking about evaluation toward:

  • Frameworks that identify shared goals and clarify how grantees’ work aligns with larger values and social movements
  • Cross-sector indicators and tools that help stakeholders understand what difference is occurring as a result of their work
  • Iterative learning that moves future efforts toward more effective practices and greater potential for impact

There was a general consensus that if funders were more deliberate in communicating with each other about common interests, intentions, and results, their collective impact could be better understood and perhaps expanded. The need to embrace experimentation and even failure was also broadly supported. Participants valued the in-depth exchange with peers this day afforded and recommended that Animating Democracy organize additional convenings to extend the learning around new cases. Read the rest of this entry »

Leadership Genesis: It’s In Our Best Interest

Posted by Jeanie Duncan On December - 12 - 2011

Jeanie Duncan

Do you recall your first formal leadership development experience? Mine was in 2000 — I was sponsored by a foundation to participate in the Leadership Development Program at the Center for Creative Leadership (CCL). I was 30, and I had been working for nine years, building a career in the nonprofit sector.

In the early years of my career, I received leadership training from various bosses, mentors, and other seasoned professionals in the form of advice, best practices, and – most often – “in the moment” life lessons. My ‘classroom’ occurred while wearing many hats, trying new things, taking risks, and making my best efforts to exhibit courage in the face of fear. Progress and discoveries came as much by failure as by success.

Today, universities have more formally developed student leadership offerings; many are requirements for undergraduate study. Students graduating and entering the for-profit workplace often begin on a development track and are exposed early on to corporate leadership training, assessments, and coaches.

These kinds of critical opportunities, while assumed and plentiful in the corporate environment, are glaringly absent in the nonprofit sector. And even if available, many leadership programs are cost-prohibitive for many small to medium-sized organizations. Read the rest of this entry »

Speaking of Leadership: Michael Spring

Posted by admin On December - 12 - 2011
Michael Spring

Michael Spring

Michael Spring has been pretty busy these days; even more so than usual. Not only does he oversee a half billion dollar capital project budget with the Miami-Dade County Department of Cultural Affairs, but Spring recently came off of a five-month stint as an assistant county manager while Miami-Dade searched for its new mayor.

“I accepted the challenge,” Spring says, “on three conditions: that I would not get the office, that I wouldn’t get the parking space and that I wouldn’t get the title; I really wanted it to be an interim responsibility.” Since 1990, Michael Spring has served as Director of his department, and 21 years later, he still just wants to be nothing but a “director of a great local arts agency”.

With the appointment of Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez in July 2011, Spring sees great promise for his community: “Our new mayor is a ‘progressive arts supporter’” and in realigning much of the county government, he “took all of the cultural facilities that were being managed by the parks department and transferred them to my department”.

When asked about this ‘added responsibility’, Spring says, “Organizationally speaking it’s the right thing to do. Practically speaking these facilities have been starved for years in the Parks Department. They come with enormous challenges. They are underfunded, understaffed, and in desperate need of capital improvements” In align with his Department’s mission, he resolves, “We’ll have to dig in and figure out a way to make them great. But that’s the job, right?” Read the rest of this entry »

Top Technology Trends: What You Need to Know Now (from Arts Link)

Posted by Tim Mikulski On April - 15 - 2011

If you’re wondering what your organization can do to take chances and make the most of future, it is probably time to try out group discounts, mobile apps, QR codes, etc., check out this new post by tech-pert Amelia Northrop.

The post is an expanded version of an article in our latest members-only newsletter, Arts Link.

For those of you with smartphones, use your barcode app to scan this QR code: 

To find out more about the benefits of becoming a member of Americans for the Arts, visit our Membership page!

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Local Arts Leader Moves to the National Stage (from Arts Link)

Posted by Tim Mikulski On April - 15 - 2011

Michael Killoren

The following is an extended version of our Q&A session with Michael Killoren, Director of Local Arts Agencies and Challenge America Fast Track at the National Endowment for the Arts, featured in the current issue of Arts Link, our quarterly member newsletter.

To find out more about the benefits of becoming a member of Americans for the Arts, visit our Membership page:

What is your overall role as the director of Local Arts Agencies and Challenge America Fast Track at the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA)?

I’m responsible for the oversight and management of these two program areas, in alignment with the new strategic direction under the “Art Works” guiding principle.

You transitioned last fall to the NEA from the Mayor’s Office of Arts & Cultural Affairs in Seattle. What’s it like to move from a local or regional organization to one with a national reach? Read the rest of this entry »

Top Technology Trends: What You Need to Know Now

Posted by Amelia Northrup-Simpson On March - 14 - 2010

Amelia Northrup

In this tough economy, most of us have encouraged ourselves and others to look ahead to brighter times.

But, what exactly lies ahead in the next year for us? How can we make the most of our future? One thing is becoming clear—technology has something to do with it.

Last year, technology influenced our field tremendously. We saw ticketing software evolve, we saw organizations start to develop mobile apps, and the rise of crowd-funding with sites like Kickstarter, the list goes on.

Technology is moving at the speed of light, and innovation is around every corner. So here are some insider tips to get you ahead of the curve on the top trends poised to take off in 2011: Read the rest of this entry »