Kate McClanahan

Kate McClanahan

You might be wondering what is happening in Congress as the lights twinkle towards year-end. You might be seeing pictures of ducks, a tribute to the current, post-election session that’s termed “lame-duck.” All the while, retiring and defeated members of Congress take up life in cubicles, losing their office space, most of their equipment, and sometimes even most of their staff. Yet, Congress is still in session. Policy is still happening, and deals are ever-changing. Here’s what you can best expect in these final days of the 113th Congress as it impacts the arts:

Tax Extenders

If you’re a follower of Congress and the nonprofit community, you’ll know that over 50 policy provisions that can affect your taxes expired a year ago. Read the rest of this entry »

With Time to Spare

Posted by Stephanie Riven On December - 4 - 2012

Stephanie Riven

As I work with talented administrators across the country, I hear one familiar refrain over and over:

“I don’t have TIME to add one more thing to my calendar—whether that is advocacy work on behalf of arts education or fundraising or a myriad of other essential tasks that I know would make a difference to my organization or to the arts generally”. 

In fact, you may not have time to read this blog post! Yes, there is always the option of committing a few more hours to our day, making that a 16-hour day instead of a 14-hour day, but in the name of sanity, that is not an option for this discussion.

In an effort to discover some realistic options, I have reviewed the literature on standard time management and discovered some of the suggestions that we have probably all heard before.

  1. Start each day by listing the tasks and activities you want to accomplish.
  2. Rank these tasks and activities in order of priority. List the three to five most difficult tasks and try to get those out of the way first.
  3. Block out time on your calendar for the highest priority task on the list.

Yes, all good but what else? I am impressed with two ideas that my partner, David Bury, suggests:

The first is called Reallocating the Easy Twenty Percent: Ask yourself, what things I currently do that someone else (a staff member, a board member, a volunteer) could do nearly as well as I? Create a list of those things. Identify what person(s) are best qualified to handle the tasks, recruit them, and then ask them if they would take these on for you. You will be surprised. They will say yes. Read the rest of this entry »

Fort Wayne: Integrating the Arts Through Practice

Posted by Jim Sparrow On November - 18 - 2011

Jim Sparrow

In Fort Wayne, IN, the arts are an active part of the downtown redevelopment. One of the anchors to this involvement is the new Auer Center for Arts and Culture, which is aligned with our vision of integrated partnerships.

These partnerships are both traditional, such as the ballet, an arts gallery (Artlink), and the administrative offices for Arts United, as well as non-traditional, including a small business partnership with Pembroke Bakery and offices for Fort Wayne Trails.

We have also formed a Cultural District Consortium with our organization, the city, our CVB, and our Downtown Development Group that has a presence in the building. Its focus includes development of business, activities, and public art within the downtown core.

The center’s concept includes fully-integrated business services; financial, insurance, IT, phones as well as shared common space and business service staff and operational space. It is also structured with the objective of changing the operation and relationship of the arts with the community and its development.

The Auer is a community center with activity focused less on events and more on active arts and cultural space. Our model defines arts in a very broad manner, but has high-quality traditional arts at the center. Read the rest of this entry »

What Arts Managers Can Learn from Steve Jobs

Posted by Jeff Scott On November - 4 - 2011

Jeff Scott

With the recent release of Walter Isaacson’s biography of Steve Jobs, and several other bios scheduled to come out in the near future, there’s a lot of discussion on what kind of a manager Jobs was.

While the management of a publicly-traded tech company and that of a nonprofit arts organization may seem worlds apart, there are some basic kernels that arts leaders can take from Steve Jobs’ career.

We’ve heard a lot about Jobs’ so-called “reality distortion field.” He pushed his employees to the max, believing that work that normally would take a month could be done in a few days. While the pressure was too much for many employees, others said it caused them to do some of the best work of their careers.

For arts managers working with limited resources in terms of people, time, and money, the notion of a reality distortion field is probably a familiar one. So many times we find ourselves making something out of almost nothing and hopefully that something is a brilliant work of art. But what is perhaps more significant is how Jobs handled his employees. Not only did he believe that a particular task could get done a certain way in a certain time frame, he believed that his people would be able to accomplish it. Read the rest of this entry »

Embracing the Velocity of Change (Part 4)

Posted by Marete Wester On October - 27 - 2011

The Fairmont Hotel's Venetian Room Circa 1950

The historic Fairmont Hotel has sat atop Nob Hill in San Francisco for over 100 years; built and rebuilt after surviving earthquakes, fires, and numerous redecorating efforts for nearly eleven decades.

Pristine marble floors, crystal chandeliers, and towering Corinthian columns trimmed in gold punctuate some fun historical facts: the Cirque Room was the first bar in the city to open after prohibition; the International Conference held there after World War II led to the drafting of the Charter for the United Nations; and the Venetian Room  supper club, which has featured artists from Marlene Dietrich to Vic Damone, was where Tony Bennett first sang “I Left My Heart in San Francisco.”

The Venetian Room seemed an unlikely place to host an early morning discussion that was all about the future. Nevertheless, the “Funding & Changing Business Models” session I facilitated at the recent Grantmakers in the Arts (GIA) conference ended up filled with energetic and motivated funders, including state and local arts agencies, small family foundations, as well as regional and national foundations. As the group swelled two deep around, a cry went out to “Change the Model!” and we started moving tables (mindful of all the crystal). It was clear this was a hot topic. Read the rest of this entry »

Emerging Ideas: Classical Music’s New Entrepreneurs (Part 3)

Posted by Ian David Moss On October - 27 - 2011

Ian David Moss

(This three-part post is the first of a series on emerging trends and notable lessons from the field, as reported by members of the Americans for the Arts Emerging Leaders Council.)

The three enterprises discussed in Parts 1 and 2 are hardly the only examples of conservatory musicians or classically-aligned individuals shaking up the classical world with innovative ideas.

Here are a few other notable instances of classical music entrepreneurship that I’ve come across:

•    The Wordless Music Series burst on to the scene in New York five years ago, presenting a head-spinning mix of programs combining first-rate classical ensembles with esoteric indie rock bands on the same bill. Founded and curated by a former Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center staffer, Ronen Givony, Wordless Music bills have included Godspeed You! Black Emperor, composer Nico Muhly, and the United States premiere of a string orchestra piece by Radiohead guitarist Jonny Greenwood. In many cases the events happen at unusual venues, such as churches, that are totally alien to the participants from the popular music realm.

•    The International Contemporary Ensemble has pioneered a remarkable hybrid structure that combines elements of performance group, presenter, and producer across multiple venues and even cities. More centralized than the grassroots chapter network of Classical Revolution, ICE is ostensibly based in Chicago and New York, but its network of ensemble members is spread out across the country. Founder Claire Chase, as well as many of the musicians, graduated from Oberlin Conservatory. Read the rest of this entry »

Creating a New Organization: From Concept to Implementation

Posted by Angela Harris On July - 25 - 2011

Angela Harris

My name is Angela Harris, and I am the executive director of Dance Canvas, an Atlanta-based dance organization, which I founded four years ago. My first blog entry is chronicling the start of my organization, and the lessons learned along the way:

#1: FILL A NEED: In 2007, I was planning to leave my career as a professional ballet dancer, and begin to focus on choreography. As I explored choreography, I encountered barrier after barrier: I didn’t have a reel of work; I had only choreographed on pre-professionals; and I was not being taken seriously as a choreographer, only a performer.

I realized that I would need to produce my own work, and while researching how to do so, I met many other dancer/choreographers in my same position. I began to conceptualize a choreography company that was devoted to developing and presenting work of emerging choreographers. I was excited about the idea, and bounced it off of many colleagues. Yet, amongst the arts administrators that heard my concept, the overwhelming sentiment was that I should not start a nonprofit in the economic/funding climate at the time. Read the rest of this entry »

In 2006, Congress asked the IRS to keep better track of the nation’s 1.7 million nonprofit organizations. Yesterday, the IRS revoked the tax-exempt status of 279,599 of them for not filing legally required documents for three consecutive years (2007-2009). Nearly 27,000 of them are nonprofit ARTS organizations.

The 26,875 arts groups represent 20 percent of all arts nonprofits—the largest percentage decrease among any of the charities. By contrast, only seven percent of religion-related organizations lost their exemptions. Cuts were noted in all arts categories, including 304 symphony orchestras, 702 museums, 395 arts councils, 2,533 theaters, 254 arts alliance/advocacy organizations, and 664 choirs.

Source: Urban Institute, National Center for Charitable Statistics, 2011.










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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 »

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 »

Sorting the 501(c)(3) Arts Basket

Posted by Claudia Bach On May - 18 - 2011

Claudia Bach

We might look more critically at how our current structure lumps radically different entities into this  single basket labeled the nonprofit arts organization: very large institutions such as the Metropolitan Opera or the Getty Museum; regional theaters and community art centers; tiny fringe theaters, artists’ start ups, and community festivals all share nonprofit arts organization status. Some of these, especially the longstanding institutions, seem to handle the 501(c)(3) structure with success. At the other end of the spectrum we find artistic work that seems to have woken up to find itself carrying a big heavy carapace made up of 501(c)(3) regulations and practices.

Perhaps it is time to stop assuming that one 501(c)(3) basket is the right container for all nonprofit arts entities. Maybe we can start to sort arts groups into a greater diversity of structures while still assuring that we have mechanisms to encourage artistic work and access. Here are some things I find interesting as we navigate this terrain.  Read the rest of this entry »

The Cart Before The Horse

Posted by Christy Bolingbroke On May - 17 - 2011

Prompted by a fluctuating economy and technological advances indirectly threatening to usurp the traditional live arts experience, we are at the height of buzz surrounding the possible identification of new business models for arts organizations; specifically, alternatives to nonprofit incorporation.

I agree – nonprofit incorporation isn’t for everyone. But what I feel is absent from these conversations is a real discussion on what we are striving for on the other end of these supposed magic bullet business models.

There seems to be a sense that we somehow trapped ourselves into the 501(c)(3) model. And so instead, we’re looking for alternative structures; other structures within which we can operate. That also seems limiting and honestly a little backwards to me.  Read the rest of this entry »

Circus Mojo – Part One

Posted by Paul Miller On May - 17 - 2011

Paul Miller

Founder’s Beware! Do you have a great idea to found a program to help others in need or benefit a worthy cause or a unique artistic goal? If so please ask yourself the following questions:

•    Should you establish a nonprofit, a for-profit, or a low-profit organization?

•    Are your ideas protected?

•    Do you have a clear exit strategy?

•    If you’re successful and your project takes off, will you be ready to deal with people who have  power and resources and are used to getting their way but who do not understand the creative process?  Read the rest of this entry »

Questioning Old Dogmas

Posted by Colin Tweedy On May - 16 - 2011

Colin Tweedy

I sense a sea change in the way the arts are funded. There is no doubt that many countries in Europe are cutting their culture budgets. A recent leader in the Financial Times concluded:

“Cultural organisations also need to do more to help themselves. A new act is unfolding in the drama of arts funding – and artists must play their role to the full.”

Arts organisations are entrepreneurial by nature. Many of the largest arts organisations are becoming more commercially savvy.

In London, where the lion’s share of all private cultural investment is raised, major bodies have seen the light. The Royal Opera House joined forces with RealD, a film and production company to provide 3D movies of their productions worldwide; the National Theatre is producing films of its block buster productions to 380 cinemas across the globe. The public grant percentage of their income has been reducing annually.  Read the rest of this entry »