Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Good morning.
"And the beat goes on......................................"

Arizona Town Hall - Day 2:

Day II gets to the meat of the matter with the morning session dealing with funding, and the afternoon session centering on action steps.

Session III:
Q: This session is broken down into four parts: the role of market forces and the private enterprise in funding A/C; the role of private philanthropy (foundations and individual donors) in funding; the role of government; and finally how can funding be better utilized.

Discussion Part I:
I am going to list the suggestions of the panel I sat in on without an attempt to organize the thinking into separate silos.
1. In-Kind donations are easier to get than cash.
2. Naming rights may be possible for major facilities.
3. Corporate funding from their marketing budgets demand some kind of quid pro quo in advancing their branding / marketing goals.
4. A/C must answer business' question of "What's in it for me?"
5. Business wants a certain degree of certainty in return for its "investment" - something quantifiable - e.g. 'X' number of print ad viewers etc.
6. Corporate funding is down in Phoenix somewhere in the neighborhood of 50% from three years ago,
7. Some corporate decisions re: funding are made at the home office, with little leeway to local or branch offices. Often times local office decisions are at the whim of the senior leadership without guidelines.
8. Younger executives may not yet be all that interested in dedicating their time and energy and money to nonprofit causes - at least not the arts.
9. One hotel in Milwaukee has engaged a local artist-in-residence. In exchange for room and board, the artist works in the lobby to the delight of hotel guests.
10. The A/C sector lacks the marketing budget to advance its brand..
11. Arizona is not a corporate HQ hub, but rather at the end of one of the spokes. Not that many potential major corporate funders.
12. Tax credits are a source of potential funding - particularly in buildings and capital improvements.

PartII: - Philanthropy
1. There is a lack of the culture of giving in Arizona that exists in other states. Fewer foundations.
2. The A/C sector lacks the personnel and skill sets to pursue entrepreneurial opportunities. They need training and professional development to hone their skills.
3. Foundations often provide programming support but not operational support to run those programs.
4. Online sites like Donorfeed.org or Kickstarter.org can help raise funds for specific projects.
5. The newly retired are a potential group for the A/C sector to target for funds.
6. Volunteers can make up for budget shortfalls in the personnel area.
7. Individuals are the principal source of philanthropic funding for A/C in Arizona.
8. A percentage of wealthy people recently relocated to Arizona continue to donate funds to organizations in their former homes instead of Arizona.
9. It is increasingly difficult to justify funding to A/C in competition with what is perceived as more pressing social needs (e.g., the homeless).
10. Volunteers become donors.

Part III: Government
1. Develop relationships with elected official's staffs. They run the show.
2. Pursue legislation that encourage private philanthropy including tax incentives.
3. Call for the restoration of the cuts to the Arts Commission and previous voter approved funding.
4. The state seems to put all its effort into attracting business and none into growing what is here.
5. There exists hidden government support that A/C should acknowledge - including University programs to train artists and arts administrators, publicly owned facilities, etc.
6. There is a current debate in Washington at the Federal level to change the rules of donor giving and the tax deduction allowed. One plan is a tier system whereby donations to certain organizations will qualify for a full deduction (at one's tax bracket level), with a second tier that allows for a half deduction, and a third tier (supposedly the arts level) that would only allow a one-third deduction. Congress is also looking at the basic 501 (c) (3) earned income with an eye to perhaps declaring it taxable in certain circumstances. These changes could dramatically (and negatively) impact all nonprofit organizations including the arts.
7. Even at the local government level, the new reality is that cuts are going to impact the most basic of services.
8. Arizona's prior campaign to achieve a voter approved dedicated revenue stream via ballot initiative was postponed because of late negative polling indicating the timing wasn't right. But that effort had broad based voter approval, and should be resurrected perhaps for the 2013 /14 period.
9. The arts should become more politially active - including efforts to elect new office holders who are arts supportive.
10. This Town Hall document should be basically a Lobbying tool.
11. The arts should start and fund their own Political Action Committee (PAC).
12. It will be easier for A/C in Arizona to mount a successful dedicated revenue stream campaign if it frames the issue with some kind of "big carrot" and includes a wider array of beneficiaries in the mix (open space, parks, libraries etc.).
13. The A/C sector needs to run its own people for public office and provide those candidates with resource support as new candidates.

Part IV - Maximizing the use of funds:
1. Build more networks within the arts and between the arts and other sectors.
2. Sell the idea within the arts that "all boats will rise with the high tide:.
3. The A/C sector should attend future Town Halls to insure its interests are represented at the table.
4. Though historically territorial, the arts in Arizona are sharing proprietary lists in efforts to benefit the whole sector.
5. Sharing expertise, forming new partnerships and consolidating - where possible - back office functions can help make the available resources go farther.

Session IV
Q: What are the action steps needed, how should they be prioritized, how should they be funded and what is the role and responsibility of individuals and entities - public and private - nonprofit included (in and outside the sector):

Ah, the devil is in the details.

1. There should be an A/C / Humanities Summit meeting.
2. The A/C sector must work to elect supportive candidates.
3. The arts must be recognized as a core academic subject in all respects.
4. The sector must work more closely with the Tourism industry as a partner in its programs and campaigns.
5. The arts should employ candidate forums and submit questions as to their positions on A/C / Humanities issues and widely publicize the responses.
6. The basic STEM education priority - Science Technology English and Math - should be changed to STEAM - inserting the ARTS into the mix.
7. Arts education offerings need to be academically rigorous and taught by qualified teachers in order to attract student interest.
8. The sector should insist on adherence to existing standards in place.
9. Attention should be paid to the vocabulary being used to expand a too narrow perception of the meaning of 'art'.
10. A greater empahsis should be on educating the public as to the health benefits of the arts.
11. Arts / Humanities organizations should join their local chambers of commerce.

Those were the take-aways from the two sessions I attended yesterday. Here is the first draft of the combined panel report findings, and once again i am very grateful to the Town Hall recorders and staff for sharing with me their preliminary draft of the first of yesterday's sessions:

1. "As government and philanthropic support has eroded, A/C organizations have had to become increasingly self-sufficient. They must now bolster their sustainability" by actively taking calculated risks in program offering and pursuing collaborative partnerships with the private sector - bearing in mind such collaborations must be win-win for all the players -- from development of special arts districts, to sharing of facilities and even consolidation of back office functions where practical.
2. The A/C will have to aggressively pursue small individual donors to take up the slack of less government and major philanthropic support, as well as expand volunterism.
3. Government support is essential, and the sector must convince voters to 'challenge the notion that there is no funding available." It should fight to re-instate recent cuts to the Arizona Commission on the Arts, proactively identify and support candidates for elected office who will champion arts and culture and work to secure additional support.
4. A ballot initiative to establish a stable and designated funding source for the entire A/C / Humanities sector should be again on the agenda for the 2013/14 target date, and these sectors must figure out how to unite for the mutual gain of everyone. (I would recommend consideration of a wider coalition of parks, open space advocates, libraries, and others so that such an initiative has the broadest possible range and depth of potential support).
5. Elected officials and the private sector should be lobbied to help create public / private collaborations to support A/C / Humanities funding - including incentives for the private sector.
6. All of this will require expanded and sophisticated networks working in concert.

While I admire and respect those who participated in this quite extraordinary process, there were some unrealistic ideas about how to proceed. It will be interesting to see how the final report and recommendations turns out, because while all of the proffered ideas were good ideas, do-able ideas, somebody - some human being - has to make them happen, has to accept responsibility for seeing them to conclusion. Some of these ideas will take a lot of time and money to fully realize. Who will do it? Where will the money come from? Those questions remain unanswered, and the problem is that virtually everyone already has a full time job and no time to take on more. Moreover, the recent draconian cuts have necessitated staffing cutbacks at the Arts Commission as well as other organizations. That is a problem,

This Town Hall was about what can be done for The Arts and Culture (including the Humanities) in Arizona. Not what can be done for any segment of that broad spectrum. The Arts Commission and the Arizona Citizens for the Arts are the statewide organizations that have the charge of the whole state perspective. They must be supported by the whole community and work together.

I have met some very talented, smart people here in the few days. Passionate, dedicated and experienced people. If the A/C sector here can put aside past differences and rally together, there is tremendous opportunity to leverage this Town Hall effort and build a solid foundation to make some significant moves in preparation for the 2012 and the 2014 election cycle to press their demands. They will need to marshall their unified strength, and figure out how to co-opt the public as well as a score of potential collaborators and stakeholders to take up their cause. Judging by what I have seen and the side conversations I have had, it seems clear to me this can be done. It is a matter of will.

I would like to thank everyone involved in this effort for allowing me the honor of observing their deliberations, inserting my own opinions and commenting on their efforts.

Tomorrow I shall report on the Town Hall's Final Recommendations, and next week offer some personal thoughts that I hope might be useful to the Arts and Culture field in Arizona, and some observations on this process that might be beneficial to those in other states experiencing similar challenges.

Don't Quit!