Thursday, April 14, 2005

April 14, 2005 Update #2

Table of Contents:
I. Capacity / Sustainability
What's wrong with these concepts?
II. The Chamber of Commerce Opposition to the Arts Like the Trojan Horse, we should conquer from the inside.
III. Visual & Performing Arts as a major field of study for college students What connection do we have to the virtual army of students in the field?
IV. Bits & Pieces Bill Ivey article; Arts Education web links

Hello everybody.

My apologies that the URL links in last week's Update did not work. I’m new at using this blog template and I screwed it up. The links have been corrected on the blog site. Here are the working links. I think I've got it right this time:
Open Secrets:
Nonprofit Jobs site:
Chronicle of Philanthropy jobs site:
Deep Sweep jobs site:
Phuket / tsunami photos site:
Education statistics site:
Internship in a Box toolkit download:
Link to the Rand Study Blog Discussion:

And the beat goes on........

Thank you to everyone for your kind messages of support for my update / blog.
It's nice to hear from so many of you again.

I. Capacity / Sustainability
"Money makes the world go around, the world go around, the world go around..."

Building capacity has been the funding buzz word of the last decade; embraced by foundations and government funders alike, and internalized by arts organizations large and small. Many of the grants awarded under this banner have been given to hire new staff in marketing, development and public relations fields - with many mid to small size organizations adding staffing in these areas for the first time. A percentage of these grants have been for multiple years - usually two or three – so as to advance that other buzz word – sustainability. The problem is that too few nonprofits address the issue of where the funds will come from to keep these employees on salary once the grants run out. Some organizations are able to leverage funds that provide the on-going revenue source to maintain their advances, but far too many are not able to secure that additional, predictable funding, and that is likely because of a limited pool of available funding sources, increased competition and still inadequate resources to succeed in pursuing the limited funding sources that are available. The result is, in part, often one step forward, two steps back. Much of what has been accomplished has been the buying of time – keeping organizations viable or enhancing their capacity for a longer (but still limited) period. Maybe that's enough in and of itself. Whether it is or not is certainly a question worth asking.

Another aspect of the capacity / sustainability approach has been that both foundation and government funders have lacked the resources or commitment to monitor their grantees to see that they are complying with the terms of the grant as perceived by the funding institutions. Once the award is made, the nonprofit recipient usually files a report or two and that is basically it. Like the government passing laws and regulations, there is no compliance structure to insure the terms of the grant are met, and, more importantly, to help the recipient really institute change. Most grantees could benefit from having mentoring, hand-holding, and advice and counsel at a far deeper and more consistent level. And perhaps funders should consider what kind of institutionalized program might be developed to aid and assist grantees in making the changes the grant envisioned work.

We need to re-think how we can build capacity and what sustainability really means for the long term. We need to understand how capacity is really built over time and how it can realistically be sustained. Funders need to re-think the level of involvement that they can and will provide during the term of the grant, and how critical such provision might be to accomplishing the changes in capacity and the sustainability of those changes that they envision as critically important. Funders need to analyze what their role in the process of trying to effect a change in capacity is or should be.

This opens a whole plethora of other issues, including whether or not the arts field is overbuilt, whether or not arts organizations can ever really grow beyond a certain point as constituted, and whether or not the current funding matrix (foundation; government federal, state and local; corporations; individual donors; and earned) can and will support the current and future nonprofit arts community at the level necessary to accommodate the growth in arts nonprofits. But for the very large cultural institutions, with substantial major donor support, I wonder to what degree we have actually increased the capacity of arts organizations with all our money over the past ten years, and how sustainable whatever increase was realized has truly been. Do we know?

II. The Chamber of Commerce opposition to the arts

>“Blinded by the light............
” Assemblyman Mark Leno (D. San Francisco) has introduced a bill in the California legislature that will levy a one percent tax on event tickets (movies, sports events, theater etc. including, unfortunately, the nonprofit sector). Still, the levy would yield a pool of funds for support of the arts far in excess of what it would cost the nonprofit arts community. This approach has been successfully adopted in Seattle and other venues. The bill is opposed by, among others, the state Chamber of Commerce. Chambers all over the country oppose most of what the arts sector proposes as a solution to its funding problems, and that is curious, because the value of the arts to the tourism and travel industry is so obvious, and that industry is usually a vocal member constituency in most Chambers. Arts organizations are, after all, small businesses – with the same benefits and problems of other small businesses. In short, arts organizations are typical Chamber members. Except they don't join, aren't represented, and don't even register on the map for traditional Chamber members or leadership.

The Leno bill will have a hard time passing the legislature. The arts in California should consider a ballot initiative to pass such a levy (and increase the percentage; one percent of a ten dollar movie ticket is a dime. If it were a quarter, does anybody honestly think people would get to the box office and upon learning of the twenty-five percent increase would storm out of the theater refusing to ever again see a movie? Movie tickets are going to cross the ten dollar threshold very soon, and five years from now a ten dollar movie ticket will be a nostalgic memory. Hell, gasoline nears three dollars a gallon and we all meekly accept the reality).

If more nonprofit arts organizations were members of their local Chambers of Commerce, that aggregate membership sector might be able to prevent state Chambers from taking these ill-conceived opposition positions to our best interests. If every nonprofit arts organization were a member, the arts sector would have the power to make it clear to Chamber leadership that opposing the arts community and a segment of its own membership isn't a good idea. There are other advantages to arts organizations being Chamber members, not the least of which is the potential for cooperative marketing strategies for performing arts organizations - tourism related and otherwise. Most nonprofit arts groups could join their local Chamber for a nominal dues fee, so cost isn't really prohibitive. The arts must begin to reach out and become involved in various segments of the community so that it can ultimately protect itself from attacks and so that it can take advantage of possible alliances and new collaborative possibilities. It's easier to work from the inside of a system than it is if you are on the outside. We aren't doing that to the extent we should, and we continue to pay the price for it.
Continuing down this path is a mistake.

III. Visual & Performing Arts Majors

>>"Standing in the shadows.............."strong> According to the U.S. Department of Education figures (1999/2000), the Visual & Performing Arts (as a field of study for colleges and universities in America) - at 1 million plus students – is the 7th largest field of study group. One million plus students – a virtual army of supporters Do we know anything about them? Have we done studies or opinion sampling to provide us with data on them? Do we have any mechanisms to reach out to them; to inform and educate them about our field; about the issues that we face, and that, if they get involved in the arts, they will face? Is this army even on our radar screens?

We are, I fear, missing the boat here. We need to immediately begin to strategize about what it may mean to the arts sector to have this large a constituent group out there – one million plus young people who are majoring in the visual and performing arts. This has profound implications for the workforce, for the future of arts education at the K-12 level, for audience development, for advocacy support and a host of other considerations. I personally think it represents an extraordinary potential asset that might be tapped into and might dramatically change things – including our anemic political power base.

(SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, 1999-2000 National Postsecondary Student Aid Study (NPSAS:2000), unpublished data. This table was prepared August 2002).


Bill Ivey Article in Backstage Magazine – on wider Arts Policy considerations

Arts Education Links – A to Z links for the Arts Education field.

Have a good week.
Don't Quit!