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 »

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 »

Need a New Way of Working? How About the Old Way?

Posted by Diane Ragsdale On May - 18 - 2011

Diane Ragsdale

There’s an old Dunkin’ Donuts commercial that ran back in the 1980s. It first showed a baker’s alarm clock going off in the wee hours of the morning and then the baker shuffling into the shower, and then into the bakery, all the time muttering “Time to make the donuts…The donuts!” When the alarms go off at the homes of artistic and managing directors of nonprofit arts institutions across the United States, I imagine them waking up and sighing “Time to meet more donors…The donors…The donors!”

There’s a lot of talk these days about transformation of the arts sector. But before we consider what we might look like in the future it might be worth reflecting on the fact that the arts sector has undergone enormous transformation already. Many institutions have evolved from rough-and-tumble clans filled with artists running around in blue jeans to…well, to professionalized bureaucracies filled with fundraisers striding around in suits. We were prodded into this transformation by corporate types who perceived our way of doing business as chaotic and, therefore, ineffective.

But what if the corporate types were wrong decades back when they told us that becoming more like them would make us more stable and, therefore, better able to fulfill our missions?  Read the rest of this entry »

Un-business Model

Posted by Rebecca Novick On May - 17 - 2011

Rebecca Novick

Asked to write about new business models I find myself instead thinking of un-business models. How can we move the business from the center where in fact the art belongs? Not move the money, which is always necessary to some degree, but the business, the unholy preoccupation with systems and structures and buildings and the perpetual employment of administrators.

I have the honor to be involved in a project that is striving to do this, a big, messy, ambitious collaboration with spiritual aims and practical struggles, led by a playwright and shepherded by his family of collaborators. Soulographie: Our Genocides is an international project organized by playwright Erik Ehn to bring together the 17 plays he wrote in the last decade about various genocides. Teams in ten cities are producing one or more of the plays locally, in preparation for performances of the full cycle at La Mama in New York City in November 2012.  Read the rest of this entry »

Business Models vs Good Business

Posted by Janet Brown On May - 17 - 2011

Janet Brown

The issue of new business models is a topic with which I am losing patience. To me it’s a “red herring” actually, when we should be discussing new product delivery models that engage more audiences, both young and old, utilize technologies, and update the organizational structures and attitudes that may have worked forty years ago but are not working today. These are huge issues of leadership, boards of directors, management, community relevance, and understanding audience trends.

“Money follows good ideas” is a mantra I’ve used most of my career. What we need are leaders who are seriously challenging programming, marketing, and governance protocols put in place years ago. Whether the legal pot the money goes into is a 501(c)(3), L3c, fiscal sponsorship, or sole proprietorship is best determined by what gives the artist or organization the greatest flexibility to raise funds, reach audiences, and fulfill their missions.  Read the rest of this entry »

Revenue Means More Than Business Models

Posted by James Undercofler On May - 16 - 2011

James Undercofler

Why, why are arts organizations being advised to research models other than the 501(c)(3)? It’s vitally important to analyze the reasons behind this “movement” in the arts and culture sector.

The changing nature of philanthropy surely plays a central role. Reduced contributed revenue from government, foundations, and corporate entities has placed increased pressure on individual giving AND earned revenue. These latter two elements tend to work in opposition to each other, in that increased pressure on individual giving generally leads to more, less-informed board members who require attention, while the need to increased earned revenue requires a fleet-footed executive team.  Read the rest of this entry »

L3C Cha-Cha-Cha

Posted by Diane Ragsdale On May - 16 - 2011

Diane Ragsdale

In his book The Revolutionary Stage, Joseph Zeigler states that Arena Stage in Washington, DC, began as a for-profit corporation by selling shares totaling $15,000 (at seven percent interest) to 300 Washingtonians. As part of doing research related to my dissertation topic—the impact of economic forces on the American resident theater movement—I recently read a speech called “The Long Revolution” written in 1978 by Zelda Fichandler, founder of Arena Stage.

She writes that she founded the theater in 1950 as a regular profit corporation, in order to better maintain control of its artistic policy, and that the theater became a nonprofit seven years later “in order to become eligible for gifts and grants, especially from the Ford Foundation which entered the field that year.”

Ms. Fichandler elaborated on the transition to becoming a nonprofit, saying:

“[…] we made all of our expenses at the box office for roughly the first fifteen years of our existence. It was as late as the mid-sixties when we conceded that we couldn’t continue to do this, but had to become a deficit-producing organization.  Read the rest of this entry »

Thoughtful Innovation

Posted by Scott Provancher On May - 16 - 2011

Scott Provancher

With the increasing media coverage about successful social enterprises like TOMS shoes and the sobering news of the near demise of major arts institutions like the Philadelphia Orchestra, there has been a lot of hand wringing in the nonprofit arts world about the need to change our traditional business models.

The blogs and conference forums love this topic and many have touted the B Corporation, Low Profit Limited Liability Companies, and numerous other hybrid business models as the path to the promise land. But before we all abandon our organization’s current model or tax-exempt status, let’s make sure we really understand what we are trying to accomplish through this change.

I must preface my comments with the fact that I am a huge proponent of continual innovation and organizational reinvention. In fact, at the Arts & Science Council (ASC) we are undergoing a significant shift in how we generate resources to achieve our mission. However, this business model reinvention is being guided by a cautious process that focuses on our mission and a clear understanding of our desired outcomes.  Read the rest of this entry »

Two Clicks = Two Quarters (from Arts Watch)

Posted by Catherine Brandt On March - 2 - 2011
Catherine Brandt

Catherine Brandt

The good people at Hyundai have generously offered to help Americans for the Arts in curing our nation’s Crampomitosis problem. Never heard of it?

Here’s how Hyundai describes the condition:

“Millions of compact car drivers are fighting against leg-buckling Crampomitosis, caused by a chronic lack of leg room. These choice-starved people have knees riddled with teeth marks, toes pointing in impossible directions, and seemingly no choice when it comes to a comfortable car to drive.”

Still wondering what in the world Crampomitosis has to do with Americans for the Arts? Let me explain. Clearly, Crampomitosis isn’t really a medical condition. It’s actually Hyundai’s way of giving back. Read the rest of this entry »

Fundraising Becomes a Pain in the App

Posted by Ben Burdick On December - 16 - 2010

With Apple’s recent ban on apps that allow direct donations to charities, countless nonprofits are likely scrambling to figure out ways to raise those last few dollars before the end of 2010.  I’m willing to venture a bet that, if they don’t already have one, almost every nonprofit organization in the U.S. has considered creating an app as a direct fundraising tool.  So why has Apple decided to forego allowing nonprofits to raise money directly through an app?  It’s understandable from a business perspective, as Apple doesn’t want to be in the business of verifying charities as legitimate 501c3 organizations nor be responsible for distributing the funds of those that aren’t (not to mention, it doesn’t look great for Apple to be taking their cut from a charitable donation).

But while the app ban does not prevent nonprofits from having apps that direct users to their websites to donate, it does introduce another level of separation in a fast-paced electronic world where people want a one-touch, easy system to make their decisions on everything from purchasing a game or an album, to making friends on Facebook.  These apps allowed nonprofits to respond quickly to situations where donations and relief are needed quickly, as evidenced by the trend in mobile and electronic giving following the Haiti earthquake. Read the rest of this entry »

Tagged with: | |

Small silver lining in current downturn

Posted by Eleanor Oakley On December - 9 - 2010

Eleanor Oakley

Small silver lining in current downturn: the “other big thing” the corporate world can offer arts non-profits–the ability to offer a workplace campaign to raise funds for the arts.  For about 20 years, our organization has used workplace campaigns as part of our fund raising strategy.  For years, we have operated in about 35 different workplaces in our metro county (about 280 sites).  But over the past six years or so, we were rarely able to add more than one or two a year, and these were almost routinely off-set by the loss of one or two others from the previous year.  With the economic downturn, we have suddenly added six new workplaces to our current campaign year and are on pace to add possibly more than that in 2011.  The easiest explanation seems to be that when companies cannot themselves contribute more dollars to us, they are more willing to allow us to ask their employees.

While we could not exist without direct corporate support, we equally value a corporation’s willingness to allow our organization direct contact with its employees.  We can tell our story, make more people aware of our work and the need for support for the arts, and generally gain more acceptance with a workplace campaign.  Our ideal corporate supporter makes a corporate contribution to our annual fund and allows us to run a workplace campaign in his or her company, often tying the corporate contribution to amount contributed by the employees.  Would that more companies do this!!

Crowd-Sourced Philanthropy

Posted by Alison Wade On July - 29 - 2010

Whether or not you’re engage in social networking, there’s a good chance you have come across a crowd-sourced corporate philanthropy contest (such as Chase Community Giving, Pepsi Refresh, or the American Express Members’ Project) sometime in the last few months. These initiatives, in which companies award funding to the nonprofit or nonprofits that earn the most votes via Facebook, Twitter, or the company’s own website, are sparking discussion in nonprofit and philanthropy circles. Most recently, James Epstein-Reeves’ editorial in Forbes outlines the pros and cons of the crowd-sourced corporate philanthropy model. (The June 2010 issue of BCA News [.pdf 873 KB] also covered the topic.) So, what’s the consensus? Is the crowd-sourced philanthropy model the wave of the future?

In some ways, crowd-sourced philanthropy seems like a win-win for both companies and non-profits. For businesses, crowd-sourced philanthropy contests don’t simply promote positive brand recognition, but also stimulate consumer engagement (especially in examples such as American Express and Pepsi, where consumers/participants log on and vote for nonprofits in different rounds, meaning they will keep returning to the company’s website or Facebook page). On the nonprofit side, Epstein-Reeves points out that these contests help level the playing field by allowing nonprofits who previously may have been ineligible for corporate grants access to the funding and branding power gained from association with the corporation, as well as national recognition that typically does not come from the award of a more traditional grant. Read the rest of this entry »

Tagged with: |

Rethinking Arts Funding

Posted by Katherine Denny On April - 5 - 2010

Despite – or maybe because of – the economic downturn, new, forward-thinking arts funding models are booming. In my dual capacity as grants administrator and grants seeker, I pay careful attention to the reaction of funders in good times and bad. As we all know, arts funding has historically been limited; recent decreases in philanthropic giving overall doesn’t help.  A few young leaders, however, have responded to these limitations by creating new funding models.

What has occurred is a transition from traditional giving through proposals with guidelines to democratized giving through popular vote and/or reliance on small donations. The young leaders who are behind these new systems are using tools they know best:  social media and critical mass. Two models – launched out of Brooklyn, NY in 2009 – are starting to take off:

Kickstarter (www.kickstarter.com):  an online fundraising tool, in association with Amazon.com, allows users to solicit individual donations from friends, family and just about anyone who knows the website exists. Any artist or arts organization is able to upload a proposed project to Kickstarter, then market the project to their friends and networks.  Reminiscent of the success of the Obama/Biden Campaign of 2008, a project becomes successful through widespread solicitation of smaller donations using online media. Small donations which, these days, are more stable than a foundation grant. And the result is a streamlined individual giving campaign with minimal effort but with potential to fill that funding gap many arts organizations experience. Read the rest of this entry »

Keeping Talent in the Field

Posted by Marc Vogl On April - 5 - 2010

Marc Vogl

Soon after I started my job at Hewlett a couple years ago I was at a party in San Francisco talking to a woman who had just turned 30. Let’s call her Tina (she’s not called Tina but this is my first blog post and if I want to make up aliases, who’s gonna stop me?).  Tina worked for a Bay Area arts organization. The mission of the organization was inspiring, she said, as were the artists she was employed to support. The people she shared an office with were more than co-workers, they were her friends. So, why wasn’t Tina happy with her job? Why was she disenchanted with her prospects in the field she’d chosen? Why, to be blunt, was Tina on her way to law school?

There are a million personal reasons that go into the major decisions we make in life, and the work we do in the arts doesn’t occur in a vacuum. So I get that no philanthropic initiative to increase the odds that smart, talented, driven people contribute their skills and passion to making great art possible, and are incentivized to stay in our sector for the long haul is not going to work for everyone. No matter how much professional development training, mentoring, or peer networking Tina received, no matter how much her boss acknowledged her contributions, asked for her input, empowered her to turn ideas into action – or even if she had been better paid and had health insurance (!) – she may still have decided this was not the career for her. Read the rest of this entry »

Feeling Out Fundraising

Posted by Letitia Fernandez Ivins On April - 5 - 2010

Letitia F. Ivins

When the Emerging Arts Leaders/Los Angeles (EAL/LA) network submitted its initial annual plan and budget to the Irvine Foundation in the spring of 2009, the ask was a modest $8,000. The Irvine Foundation then queried: What we would do with $75,000 over three years? Say what?! With twinkling eyes and pants of excitement, we drafted our formal proposal around this funding amount. Honored by the request and smitten by the Foundation’s vision and progressive funding priority, the core group of EAL/LA members working on the proposal didn’t question the ramifications (mostly positive, some provocative) of envisioning our program around this new funding stream. This would be the first grant received by the network, so the first time this organic, budget-less network conceived a sustainable infrastructure.

While the other California Emerging Leader networks have officially received funding, EAL/LA awaits approval by a fiscal sponsor (Community Partners www.communitypartners.org – fingers crossed!) For Community Partners, a successful fiscal sponsor has a development plan. While it’s important for any nonprofit to strive for diverse funding, I wonder if EAL/LA’s investment in development efforts, will impede the members’ ability to execute the programs that are at the network’s core: professional development, social networking events and advocacy?

How do we chart a realistic growth pattern and ensure sustainability without straying from our critical programs for the sake of pursuing new funding? 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

Teaching Artists

Early Arts Education

Common Core Standards

Quality, Engagement & Partnerships

Emerging Leaders

Charting the Future of the Arts

Taking Communities to the Next Level

New Methods & Models

Public Art

Best Practices

Evaluation

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.