Sunday, January 20, 2019

Eddie Torres - GIA President / CEO - Interview

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

Eddie Torres - Bio:
Edwin Torres joined Grantmakers in the Arts as president and CEO in October 2017. He most recently served as deputy commissioner of cultural affairs for New York City. Torres served on the GIA board of directors from 2011 through 2016. Prior to joining the NYC Department of Cultural Affairs, he was a program officer with The Rockefeller Foundation. He served as director of external partnerships for Parsons the New School for Design. He has also served on the arts and culture team at The Ford Foundation as well as on the staff of the Bronx Council on the Arts. He holds a Master of Arts in Art History from Hunter College and a Master of Science in Management from The New School.

Barry:  As a preface, a recently published study in the Winter 2018 GIA Reader, by Steve Lawrence, reviewing arts funding 25 years after a landmark First Arts Funding Study, observed that:

  • Corporate foundation funding continues to decline
  • Foundation arts funding, while remaining substantial, is a seemingly shrinking priority for the U.S. Foundation community. Newer, Millennial launched foundations are more substantially moving away from arts funding, as other societal needs, challenges and arenas seem more urgent. 
  • The demand for support has increased as the arts nonprofit universe continues to grow.
  • Earned income is shrinking.
  • Individual giving (including corporate employee giving) is an increasing percentage of overall arts funding support, though individual giving is often impacted by negative economic situations.

While society as a whole, and younger people specifically, are increasingly interacting with the arts, both as creators and as participants, in ways outside of the more traditional types of institutions that “embody the arts in the United States,” overall arts funding continues to perpetuate distribution patterns whereby funding disproportionately goes to the largest, Euro-centric arts organizations.

We know these things. None of that is new to us. The question is what can we do about shrinking funding, diminishing audiences, stagnant earned income, decreasing relevance, and inequitable funding patterns, and what are we doing about it?  These seem to be the ever present challenges we all face.

Here is the interview:

Barry:  You’ve just wrapped up your first GIA Conference as head of the organization. The event is a major GIA effort, and I know personally how normally exhausting the planning and execution of a major national conference is, particularly as GIA has a relatively small staff. This year, just before the delegates arrival, there was a strike by employees at your host hotel in Oakland, California. You choose to honor the picket line, and then had to scramble to reschedule the conference events at other venues. That must have been a logistical nightmare, and the whole experience is certainly baptism under fire. Yet by all accounts you and your team handled it very well. How did you manage? And what lessons might you pass on to others in dealing with the unexpected and unanticipated things that invariably go wrong with our best laid plans?

Eddie:   Grantmakers in the Arts (GIA) treated this year’s annual conference in Oakland as an experiment in living our values in real time. GIA has historically held the conference in a hotel, negotiating each venue contract approximately two years in advance of the event. This practice was designed for the convenience of our registrants and for its affordability. But when Unite Here – an organization of working people, coming together to win dignity and higher standards in the hospitality industry and beyond – announced that its workers at the Oakland Marriott City Center were going on strike, two weeks before the conference, GIA had a series of tough choices to make.

GIA provides more than professional development for our grantmaker members. We foster a multi-platform community in which we discuss big issues like, “How do we allocate resources through the lens of our values?”

With this very tangible understanding of the context we were about to enter, the GIA team and board asked ourselves: “How do we put into practice the content of so many of our conference sessions as well as our year-round work? How do the arts join and strengthen social justice movements happening now?” We committed to refusing to cross the picket line and to ensuring that in order to participate in this conference no one else would be required to do so either.

The GIA team worked with our conference planning committee in the Bay Area and engaged in a superhuman effort, led by our Deputy Director & Director of Programs, Nadia Elokdah, to re-design the entire conference top to bottom within two weeks. At over 600 registered attendees, Oakland was anticipated to be the largest conference GIA presented, therefore finding adequate and convenient space proved to be a challenge. All 59 conference sessions were held in cultural venues in downtown Oakland, all of which were walking distance from each other.

Even before arriving, conference registrants began sending GIA staff and board notes of support for our decision and sticking by our values. Once in Oakland, participants remarked that the conference was far more interesting and energizing for being in the community. By the end, participants were calling it “the best conference ever.” 99% of those surveyed said they were “satisfied” to “extremely satisfied” with the overall conference, as well as the curation of the breakout sessions.

All in, this was a far more expensive endeavor. But a budget is an expression of your values. And our members’ support for our decisions and the increased expenses incurred in standing alongside social justice movements is an expression of the values of our cultural funder community.

The lessons GIA learned through this experience include:

  • Stand by your values and be transparent with your stakeholders. 
  • While re-planning was our first task at hand, we knew communication to participants and presenters would be just as important. We alerted our registrants in advance that this would be a less convenient and comfortable conference, and we posted a FAQ, a list of alternate hotels, and a map of the conference session and plenary sites. 
  • Build relationships in the community - This is only possible given the year-long relationship-building [link:] to which GIA and the local planning committee commit when coming to a new host city each year. 

And, from a personal standpoint, I would say, I have learned to surround myself with people smarter and more talented than me. This is what I did when choosing GIA’s staff and our local conference planning committee. Grantmakers in the Arts couldn’t be luckier than to have members that embrace our changing our long-standing practices in real time as a way to make sure we are living our collective values.

Barry:  Speaking of your tenure. You’ve now been at your post for a little over a year. You came to the position with substantial arts philanthropic experience, and familiarity with GIA and its workings. But representing the entirety of the arts funding community is obviously a different animal. What has surprised you about running the organization, and the challenges facing the arts philanthropic community, and what have you learned in the past year that you didn’t know when you started? Are you working on any major new initiatives? Can you share?

Eddie:   Grantmakers in the Arts’ vision for the future is one in which foundations and public agencies have increased their support to arts and culture, both directly and through inclusion of arts and culture in other efforts and portfolios. Our field will be ever-more inclusive in terms of culture. GIA will engage with experts like Americans for the Arts, ArtPlace America, and others in advocacy for inclusion of culture in public sector support – both for agencies like the National Endowment for the Arts but also in agencies that are not primarily focused on arts and culture. GIA will also work to complement the great work being done by leaders like Arts Education Partnership and Grantmakers for Education for advocacy for arts in education. GIA will also collaborate with other parts of philanthropy-serving organizations like United Philanthropy Forum, Environmental Grantmakers Association, Grantmakers in Health, and others to help inform how to include arts and culture in other philanthropic portfolios.

In GIA’s preferred future, our field have increasingly grown to become investors in culture – broadening the means and tools of support (from just grants to private investments, etc.) and who/what entities receive support (from organizations to artists, businesses, unincorporated entities, groups of community stakeholders, etc.). This will be a central theme included in our annual conference in Denver, October 13 – 16, 2019.

GIA will continue seeking opportunities to help build capacity in geographic areas where we don’t have as many members but where residents clearly value culture. We did so during my first year, bringing our Capitalization and Community workshop to Tennessee. We are grateful for the opportunities to work on areas like Tennessee and others to help support cultural investment.

Barry:  One of the first decisions of your tenure was to move the offices from its historical Seattle location to New York. The west coast location was really pretty much an accommodation to the original head of GIA, and not for some overarching strategic reason. But being on the west coast did give it a perspective and perhaps even an insulation that served it well in its early days. Why did you decide to relocate to the east coast? And that move necessitated a virtual wholesale changeover in your staff as well, did it not? Has the reasoning behind the move been validated one year on? What advantages are there to being in New York, and what are the negatives you've experienced in your location?

Eddie:   The Grantmakers in the Arts board of directors and I decided to move to New York City to take advantage of the fact that so many of our members are in this area. But NYC is an area of marked financial inequality. We didn’t want to reify the misperception of arts and culture as an exclusive playground of the rich, so we moved the office to the South Bronx as a way to reinforce our message that we should increase cultural funding in low-income communities and communities of color. While this decision resonated with me on a very personal level (this is the neighborhood where I grew up), this move has been so warmly embraced by our members and by our community.

Barry:  You have continued to carry the banner of pushing for greater equity and diversity at all levels of the arts as a major GIA initiative. Where do you see both the philanthropic community and the wider arts field as a whole in terms of our progress in diversifying our boards and staffs, in moving us to equity in access to, and awarding of, funding, and in addressing systemic racism and other forms of bias and prejudice, within our structures? That arts funding has been and continues to be disproportionately allocated to larger European cultural institutions is a given. To what extent, if any, does that reality impede progress in the equity / diversity effort? What are the next steps in this challenge for GIA? For the field? Are we making progress at a sufficient pace and on a sufficient scale? Is this a challenge we can afford to have the solution take years, or decades? Must it?

And Diversity and Equity are obviously not the same thing. Full diversity doesn’t necessarily insure real equity in terms of, say, funding. Studies confirm that philanthropically the arts funding community continues to make the biggest awards to the biggest cultural institutions. That funding is generally at the expense of smaller and mid-sized organizations, particularly newer startups and ones addressing multicultural community needs. How long is that approach sustainable? How can that paradigm be changed to be, at least, a little more equitable? And is a little more equitable enough?

Eddie:   Racial equity is different from diversity or inclusion in that racial equity calls upon grantmakers to invest in African, Latinx, Arab, Asian, and Native American (ALAANA) communities/communities of color.  Art and culture are the means by which we express what makes us truly human.  Investments in culture are investments in our full humanity. Helicon Collaborative’s research points to investments in ALAANA communities/communities of color declining, rather than increasing.

Arts foundations and nonprofit leaders are increasingly aware of diversity, equity, and inclusion issues in the nonprofit sector. Despite this, 2% of all cultural institutions receive nearly 60% of foundation giving in the arts, up 5% from a decade ago. In a country where 33% of residents are people of color, just 4% of cultural philanthropy goes to organizations of color. The largest predominantly white nonprofit theatre companies in America have annual budgets between $50-$60 million. The largest predominantly African-American theatre company has an annual budget of $3.5 million. The largest predominantly Latino company has an annual budget of $2.5 million.

Grantmakers in the Arts is given hope by the fact that our programming that teaches about racial equity is our most popular. While discussions of race and racial equity are emotionally difficult, our community is filled with heroically courageous people who seek out these difficult discussions and heroically courageous people who seek to share what they’ve learned and where they’ve struggled.

GIA is encouraged but we don’t want to settle. We know that people of color often carry the burden of advocating for and teaching others about racial equity. The slow pace of change can often wear on us. But if we don’t engage this work in the spirit of compassion for our colleagues and ourselves, we will not maintain the energy to continue this work.

Barry:  On that topic, what specific resources – trainings, coaching, toolkits, convening et. Al. – is GIA currently, or contemplating, providing? What assessment of the needs in the field to move us further along in achieving equity, have you done, and what do you see GIA’s role to be in the provision of resources to address those needs?

Eddie:  Our webinar on the history of racialization in the U.S. had over 400 participants [link:]. Members are reaching out to us to host Racial Equity in Arts Funding workshops in their communities. We have also posted racial equity resources on our website [link:] and we have developed these webinars, workshops, and resources in response to our members’ feedback requesting introductory information, case studies of nuts-and-bolts approaches to this work and access to the resources that already exist throughout the nonprofit field.

Barry:  Arts Education is another area of major interest for GIA. The field has, for decades, wanted to see a curriculum based, sequential, credentialed teacher taught, full panoply of all the arts, for K-12 throughout the country, so that every student in every district could have access to real arts education. The problem with that lofty goal is that the cost of putting qualified, trained teachers in each of the core arts disciplines (music, theater, dance and visual arts) in every school, is prohibitively expensive, and for that, and other reasons, is not the local district priority for most districts across the country.  The sad fact is that the wealthier districts and the private school sector students get arts, the poorer district students do not. And we are now very likely in the third generation of students so denied. What do we do? Can we avoid yet another generation of disadvantaged students not having any arts as part of their education? While symphonies, museums, theaters, dance companies and other arts organizations provide exemplary school programs as part of their mission, and while many of those programs are the only arts some students get, and while arts funders have historically supported those projects and programs, it is, arguably, not enough, and never will be. Isn’t the only solution to real arts education for government to embrace the concept and foot the bill? How do we effectively lobby for that to happen?

Eddie:   In 2012, Grantmakers in the Arts’ Arts Education Funders’ Coalition (AEFC) and consultants Penn Hill Group developed a K-12 arts education agenda, a comprehensive strategy that sought to reinvigorate arts education in federal policy. In 2014, that policy agenda was expanded to encompass more initiatives and a longer time frame to extend beyond a single legislative cycle.

GIA is extremely proud of our work over the past several years on raising the visibility of the arts in the Elementary and Secondary Education Act in its legislative form as well as in the rules and regulations that influence school district decisions, and on securing $250 million per year in funding for the arts in the US Department of Education’s Pre-K grant program.

GIA looks forward to continuing our relationship with Arts Education Partnership, which takes complex legislative and policy and practice issues and makes them digestible for a general audience. GIA will also continue our relationship with Grantmakers for Education. Likewise, we will deepen our relationships with public officials for the sake of finding ways to include support for arts in education in other pieces of related legislation and practice.

GIA recognizes that it works in a constellation of actors advocating for arts in education and is eager to explore opportunities to bring our unique value proposition to broader efforts to encourage arts in education across the nation.

These efforts will include GIA’s partnering with other stakeholders on getting local grantmakers (such as community foundations and family foundations) to join their stakeholders’ work to encourage inclusion of the arts in education through participation in local control efforts for the Title programs in their communities, as well as local input requirements for states’ Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) plans. Our members’ participation in these local control efforts can help influence local control so that arts education voices are heard and influential.

In our work in being proactive and responsive to advocacy opportunities as they arise, GIA coordinated with Funders Committee for Civic Participation and other affinity groups. We collaborated to advocate for the elimination of a citizenship status question on the 2020 U.S. Census, and encourage funding for in-person outreach. In the letter, we cite our concern of the potential for inaccuracies and misrepresentation of our nation’s residents, especially ALAANA communities/communities of color. An undercount of ALAANA communities/communities of color could have negative impacts for Federal and State funding for arts, education, and other critical income and social service programs. As this issue can create great threats to the arts and arts education, we will remain engaged with our colleagues on it.

Barry:  You have a great resource on your website that provides a state by state guide to arts education funding. It centers on state plans required under ESSA – the federal government’s main K-12 assistance to states. A review of those plans seems to indicate that, for the most part, arts education is seen as something that might come under the banner of “a well rounded education” or the banner of teacher training / professional learning, or the banner of being included as an indicator of meeting benchmarks in progress – in other words, the arts are seen as the handmaiden to some larger goal, but not as necessarily a goal for their own value – whether intrinsic or supportive. How long will it take us to change that reality so that federal government support to the states for education, features the arts, front and center, as the equal of the STEM subjects, and how do we do it? Saying the arts are a “core” subject, then not funding them, is a betrayal and denial is it not?

Eddie:  The inclusion of the arts has been proven to positively influence academic performance. Grantmakers in the Arts is grateful for the chance to inform our residents how they can have meaningful influence on their states’ providing students a full education that includes the arts. GIA’s advocacy consultants Penn Hill Group has prepared informational guidelines for states with approved ESSA plans that GIA members can share with grantees, so they can advocate for new or expanded arts programs at their local schools [link:]. This tool is useful for GIA members, the arts education field, and organizers on the ground to leverage support and increase resources going toward quality arts and arts education at the state, district, and even individual school level.

Barry:  In addition to arts education lobbying, have we arguably failed to mount any meaningful advocacy / lobbying to include the arts to a larger extent in the federal budget i.e., ESSA, the NEA, possible arts and prisons efforts, healing and healthcare initiatives, veterans services, artist support, and other efforts? Why is our advocacy and lobbying effort so minimal, so limited to being reactive, and so incapable of moving the arts dramatically forward - on both the federal and local levels? Why do we continue to settle for an anemic effort at affecting decision making at the federal and even state levels? What is the role of the arts funding community in trying to get our advocacy / lobbying capacity more sophisticated? Are foundations still shying away from funding political activity even though there are clearly legal avenues to do just that? We consider even a one percent rise in NEA funding as a victory, but where is the effort that says one percent isn’t enough. Where is the demand, backed up by the power, for fifty or even a one hundred percent increase? Why is that not the marching cry?

Eddie:   Grantmakers in the Arts is grateful that the National Endowment for the Arts has received increased allocations, as it deserves. Past attacks on the NEA are attacks on public sector spending for the sake of keeping taxes low for those that don’t wish to pay them. The attacks against the NEA during the culture wars were framed as a fight against immoral, blasphemous people of color, LGBTQ+ people, and women. This frame for the issue was used – and continues to be used in other contexts - in an attempt to secure support from the kinds of social conservatives who may not actually be well-served by reduced public spending in general. These attacks against people of color and other “cultural others” are too often the strategy of those who seek to generate opposition against taxes and the public services paid for by our taxes. If we don’t explicitly frame our support for people of color and other cultural “others” we are bringing a knife to a gunfight. We must support the core issue at the heart of the opponents of cultural expression. This is one of the reasons that GIA couples its support for public support for arts and culture with our support of racial equity and of intersectionality. We are being na├»ve if we think these issues are separate or if we treat them as separate.

Barry:  What is the current status of the nation’s arts organizations’ capitalization? This was one of GIA’s major concerns under Janet Brown’s leadership. Are our organizations better capitalized now, or has there been virtually no change in that regard? And if our organizations remain seriously undercapitalized, is that basically because most of them simply cannot generate the income to put their operations on a sound financial footing? What does that say about the field? And what can we do? We seem to have ever more newer arts organizations coming into existence every year, while many of the ones already in existence continue to struggle just to stay afloat. Is that sustainable? Some in our field have argued that too many of our executive directors are woefully inadequately trained in financial matters? To the extent that may be true, what can / should funders do to change that void?

Eddie:  Nonprofit cultural organizations tend to be poorly capitalized and struggle to build the liquidity necessary to pay their staffs and to weather volatility. That is why Grantmakers in the Arts partners with Rebecca Thomas Associates to host our Capitalization and Community workshops [link:] for grantmakers and nonprofit organizations to teach them how to match capital to organizations’ needs and to help them build appropriate liquidity to function and thrive.

As it stands, organizations’ surpluses, if they exist at all, aren’t sizeable enough to build savings. National Center for Arts Research (using Data Arts and other sources) estimates the average savings of cultural nonprofits to be the equivalent of about 2.5 months of expenses. While large institutions receive more money, that money is often trapped in the wrong places, sacrificing liquidity. Growing organizations often struggle the most as they too often build infrastructure ahead of revenue. Fixations on endowments, leverage and capital projects – as well as limits on overhead – often undermine what we try to achieve.

That’s why GIA’s Capitalization and Community workshops  [link:] are for both funders and their applicant organizations.  The changes in practice that we coach our members to embrace – matching capitalization to an organization’s needs – help organizations of all sizes.

Some of our stakeholders perceive GIA as favoring large institutions because of our work encouraging funders to support more thoughtful and thorough capitalization. Other stakeholders perceive GIA as favoring small organizations because of our work encouraging funders to increase support to organizations of color. But we teach similar lessons in both workshops – that “best practices” need not remain unchallenged just because they are long-standing. Matching support to an organization’s needs for liquidity and stability helps large institutions, mid-sized and small organizations and organizations of color, regardless of their size.

Over half of the funders who have participated in GIA’s Capitalization and Community workshops [link:] say that the workshops have inspired them to change their funding practices in order to more thoughtfully and thoroughly capitalize their cultural organization grantees.

GIA and Rebecca Thomas Associates are building out our Capitalization and Community workshops to include more case studies of effective capitalization practices. There are great funders doing great work who are eager to share their examples with our members who are eager to learn how better to support our nation’s cultural organizations. We know what a great opportunity this is.

But GIA is not just targeting arts funders. We seek to unlock more capital for culture. As philanthropy has recovered from the Great Recession, there is more money for the arts than before. Thanks to Steven Lawrence’s research [link:], we know that other areas of philanthropy are increasing at higher rates than the arts. From 2000 – 2014, private giving for all sectors rose ~14% after inflation but support for the arts only rose 10%.

As newer foundations come online, the arts seem a lower priority. Funding patterns remain largely the same. Foundation arts grantmaking still largely supports large cultural institutions reflecting a Western European cultural tradition. The largest institutions receive the most support – museums and performing arts presenters. The historic lack of investment in low-income communities and organizations of color remains. Arts funders of all types worry about making the case for the arts.

Grantmakers in the Arts believes in the intrinsic value of the arts. Our continuing to frame arts and culture as something precious and separate from society and social challenges is not working the way it once did. This time is a great opportunity to find ways to include support for culture in other philanthropic portfolios as well.

Barry:  As the U.S. boomer population ages, there is increased interest within our field and within the population itself, for programs, research, and inquiry into both creative aging, and for arts and aging, health care, medicine and science. The area is particularly ripe with potential collaborations and joint partnerships with other government agencies, and other funding sources outside the arts. Where does GIA see this area moving in the next two or three years, and how are you working with your member funders to make sure the arts are at all those tables?

Eddie:   As we continue to live longer and longer, Grantmakers in the Arts is grateful for the chance to work with our colleagues on cultivating greater collaboration in support of culture’s role in health, aging, and disability issues. We have been privileged to have participated in the Healthy Communities deep dive hosted by a2ru, the University of Florida Center for Arts in Medicine, the University of Cincinnati, and ArtPlace America. We are gearing up for a follow-up now. I have just authored a blog post for the Center for Arts in Medicine.  GIA also participated in a two-day discussion of the role of narrative change in health equity hosted by the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene and Open Society Foundation. We are also proposing conference sessions for such convenings as Grantmakers in Health’s. The conference session on disability arts at Grantmakers in the Arts’ annual conference in Oakland was filled to capacity. This all speaks to the health and disability communities’ embrace of culture and vice versa. And these discussions are central to considerations of aging. GIA is grateful for the opportunity to share our members’ examples to help our national community’s work.

Barry:  Society as a whole, and including the wider arts sector and the sub arts funder field, are undergoing fundamental transitions in leadership as boomers age and retire. What are the likely plusses and the likely minuses in that transition and what is the funder role in managing that changeover? Is there any danger of losing institutional memory?

Eddie:  Change equals opportunity. Leadership transitions offer an opportunity to honor and build on legacies while charting new courses. Grantmakers in the Arts was lucky to have such a thoughtful departing President in Janet Brown. She structured our transition so that she and I overlapped. We were able to keep our longest-standing staff member – he has been with the organization longer than Janet Brown. We were able to keep our Operations and Finance team member in an advisory role through the transition. And, we have an active and engaged board of directors, board alumni, and membership.

As leadership transitions take place throughout the arts and culture field, GIA is excited to embrace these great opportunities to educate and learn from new leaders. We’ve just had our annual conference in Oakland, which had record-breaking attendance. We welcomed more than 670 participants throughout the conference, one third of whom were attending for the first time. Data from the conference census revealed that respondents were over 50% ALAANA/POC and the majority of respondents were between 25-50 years of age.

This incredible increase in participation – particularly among first-time attendees – speaks to our community’s appetite to learn and share.

Barry:  Another area GIA champions is in addressing the threats to our field by the rise in natural disasters - floods, hurricanes, wildfires, earthquakes and the like - and how we respond to those threats. What more needs to be done in this area to insure we are prepared for the worst and can provide those in our field that are victims in these cases more than just moral support and sympathy?

Eddie:  Another area Grantmakers in the Arts champions is addressing the threats to our field by the rise in natural disasters - floods, hurricanes, wildfires, earthquakes, and others. The cultural community is part of a larger context. One of the first projects I got to work on as Deputy Commissioner for the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs was leading the development of a chapter of the city’s long-term sustainability plan. We asserted that a community whose culture is supported is inherently more resilient. As GIA collaborates with our colleagues to advocate for inclusion in public support, it is essential that we participate alongside our neighbors in discussions of public support for resilience. Recurring emergencies in places like New Orleans and Puerto Rico reveal the racial dimensions of our neglect of our residents. These are great opportunities for us to unpack the cultural dimensions of resilience.

Barry:  In the area of support for individual artists, one of the continuing and essential needs is for living / work space, the need for which is particularly acute in those cities where housing and rents are astronomical and where working artists simply cannot afford to live. Arguably that forced exodus of artists, deeply diminishes the cultural quality of those cities, and the vibrancy of life in them. Yet it is an enormously expensive proposition to secure housing and work space for artists as the private sector benefits from the rising market prices and values. What can the arts funding community possibly do when gentrification forces displacement?  Should we have some kind of effort to lobbying local governments to insure artist live / work space in their planning processes, including perhaps some tax on the sale of, if not residential, then at least commercial space - the proceeds of which would be mandated for use to subsidize artists? The arts add value to real estate prices in an area, and in businesses attracting and retaining talent. Isn’t it fair for them to support that benefit?

Eddie:  The affordability crisis for living and working spaces is one of the central threats to our nation’s communities. Grantmakers in the Arts’ increasing engagement with the advocacy community stems from our belief that the cultural community is poised to take its place in solidarity with other low-income communities to advocate for public investment in the spirit of equity. We have brought together leaders in local arts agencies and private philanthropy to share their successes and challenges so that they may adapt them for their local contexts. This was one of the central motifs we explored in GIA’s annual conference in Oakland and we will continue to explore it in Denver in October 2019 and onward.

Barry:  GIA has, from time to time, commissioned research and studies, most frequently publishing those results in the GIA Reader. How might the organization raise the funds to create and manage an expanded and more active research arm? And if it could develop that capacity, would researching all GIA funded organizations and projects annually, with an aim to review those grants’ successes, impacts, failures and lessons learned so as to give us an idea of the overall funding success or failure? Certainly, the arts philanthropic community has, in the aggregate, access to an incredible trove of data. Is this an opportunity that the field needs to seize now? BTW, I personally love the GIA Reader and always find some article that captures my interest and attention and makes me think. What can you do to dramatically increase its circulation and availability to a wider audience?

Eddie:  Grantmakers in the Arts’ stakeholders are clearly hungry for information.  GIA is actively sharing more information in more ways and our community is responding.  GIA’s social media activity and audience engagement has increased considerably. This has allowed us to share far more professional development and educational content with the national cultural community. GIA’s social media accounts directly reach over 11,347 followers. GIA had 5,523 Twitter followers by October, a 15% increase since October 2017. In Facebook, GIA had 5,824 followers by October, an increase of 12.4% since October 2017.

The growth in Twitter, particularly, is a consequence of our strategy to develop Grantmakers in the Arts’ social media footprint and position us as a reliable outlet to advance transformative cultural philanthropy through our programs but also through meaningful news and posts that foreground our values and mission.

Our most listened-to podcast [link:] of the year was from the Arts Advocacy Series, specifically the episode in which GIA, Jessica Mele (William and Flora Hewlett Foundation), and Sam Massol (Center for Arts Education) explored advocacy through an arts education lens.

Our most read news post [link:] reported on a study jointly commissioned by Doris Duke Charitable Foundation and The New York Community Trust on how to conduct targeted funding for ALAANA-led organizations/organizations of color.

GIA’s most popular webinar [link:] of the year, “Real and Not Real: The history of racialization in the United States,” featured Race Forward and GIA discussing the creation and perpetuation of the racial hierarchy, ideologies of whiteness, and how institutional strategies for diversity, inclusion, and equity often get conflated or confused.

GIA is grateful to get these forms of feedback to help inform our future content and foci.

Barry:  I’ve been seeing increasing discussion within the wider nonprofit universe about the shortcomings of the five percent rule for foundations - e.g., the requirement that foundations annually spend at least five percent of their endowment on grants and expenses related to charitable activity. While adherence to that formula is a way for foundations to maintain their endowments in perpetuity, I am seeing critics calling into question the wisdom of foundations spending no more than the five percent. The basic criticism is that there are numerous societal problems and challenges that philanthropy isn’t having much of an impact in addressing by adherence to limiting spending to the five percent rule. And that foundations ought to consider major increases now so that these problems and challenges they wish to address don’t grow ever larger and more difficult to address. The five percent expenditures are not accomplishing much more than maintenance of the status quo, or so goes the argument.

Is that arguably true in the arts as well? First, do we have the data which tells us whether or not we are underfunding by limiting funding to just five percent of foundation endowments, and thereby insuring a level of failure? Is that true in arts education, capitalization efforts, diversity and equity, advocacy, and other of our areas? Is this an issue GIA ought to be raising with its membership?

Eddie:  North American foundations were established to address the failures of the private market as well as the weakness of our public social safety nets. That is why the cultural community’s advocacy must focus not just on foundations but on the public sector as well.

But even within the philanthropic community, there is capital available that is not being used in support of culture. Cultural philanthropy in the U.S. in 2014 was $33.6 billion. Of that amount, $4.9 billion came from foundations (8% of foundation giving). According to Giving USA, in 2017 total charitable donations rose to a new high of $390.05 billion. But socially responsible investing in the United States has reached $8.7 trillion. Even if every dime of philanthropy went to culture, it would be a fraction of the socially responsible investing market. When looking at the thematic areas that are targeted by impact investing across the country, arts and culture is around 0%.

Whether or not you change the 5% payout requirement, 95% of a foundation’s assets are available for investment. Program-related investments (PRIs) are important and we applaud their use. But PRIs still come out of a foundation’s 5% payout requirement. Mission-related investments come out of the remaining 95% of a foundation’s investments.

And there is great work being done. The Compton Foundation is making investments in culture from its investment portfolios. Several other foundations are openly discussing with us their doing likewise. And there is the potential for scale. The Nathan Cummings Foundation is focusing their entire $500 million endowment on mission-aligned investing. The Ford Foundation is focusing $1 billion of their $12 billion endowment on mission-related investing. If even part of those resources go to culture, this will dwarf their arts grantmaking. And, that’s just a few examples.

When Grantmakers in the Arts joined Upstart Co-lab [link:] in a webinar with The Foundation Center [link:], registration was through the roof. When we’ve featured Upstart Co-lab at our conference, both sessions were at capacity. There is clearly hunger in our community to unleash investment capital on the cultural community, and we intend to continue this exploration. We are in dialogue with Upstart Co-lab and Mission Investors Exchange as we’d love to find ways to bring this appetite to use private investment capital to support culture to fruition and at scale.

Barry:  What is the growth potential for GIA in the next five years? And is there any way GIA can significantly increase its income via new members, grants, government money or some kind of earned income? Do you see expanding membership to include funders who principally operate in other areas of the nonprofit universe, but who might have limited project partnerships or collaboration with the arts? Do you see any opportunities for GIA to produce earned income beyond member dues, and education (webinars et. al.) fees? Or is the budget for GIA ultimately finite?

Eddie:  Grantmakers in the Arts views the future in terms of the growth of our influence on the levels and character of cultural support. Our intention is to have this influence through our embrace of humility, recognizing that we don’t stand alone. Culture exists in all things and therefore deserves support as part of all things.

Thank you Eddie.

Have a great week.

Don't Quit

Sunday, January 6, 2019

One Resolution That Is Easier Than Ever to Keep

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

NFL Playoff games, the Golden Globes, Government Shutdown - we are now in the the New Year --  full throttle.

Most of those who make New Year's Resolutions have already done so.  A few are still in the "thinking about it" stage.  The number One and Two most common resolutions are:  To lose weight and to exercise more.  Those who regularly go to the gym, will note the spike in newbies in January.  They also know that half, or more, of those who have just started their workout program will be gone by the end of the month, principally because they push themselves unreasonably, and so they make it almost impossible to stay the course.  They simply don't understand that the single most important exercise you can do at the gym is to walk through the front door on a regular basis.  They don't appreciate that going slow and building on a foundation is the only way to keep at it, and reap the benefits of that commitment.  People new to the gym make another mistake:  they feel intimidated by others and rush to compete on a level they are ill-prepared for.  The truth is, at the gym, you are only competing against yourself.  No matter what gym you are in - anywhere in the world - there will always be people who can outperform you.  Irrelevant.  The gym is about you, not them.

That's actually true for any resolution.

The next most common New Year's Resolution is to improve our skills level; to get better at doing what we do, both by learning new things and improving on old ones.  The biggest obstacles to pursuing this worthy goal is convenience and cost.  Not time, because we can probably easily enough make the time if we really want to, but the inconvenience of doing so.  That, and the cost.  Too often, availing ourself of learning new things is inconvenient.  The offerings are on somebody's else time schedule, not ours.  The offerings are often nowhere near where we work or live.  And the options of personalizing the learning is usually prohibitively expensive.  Courses and trainings, coaches and trainers, cost money - money neither we, nor our organizations really have.  And so we mean to improve ourselves, but find it difficult to do so.  And we make the mistake of waiting for the opportunity to come to us.

Technology has made those excuses invalid.  Today there are literally thousands of courses offered by hundreds of organizations - including top tier universities - available online; a huge number of which are free, and can be accessed on your schedule.

These courses include teachings, tutorials and coaching for both soft and hard skills.  According to an article on CNBC, The 10 most in-demand skills of 2019, according to LinkedIn, include:

Here are the 5 most in-demand soft skills in 2019:

5. Time Management

4. Adaptability

3. Collaboration

2. Persuasion

1. Creativity

Hard skills, include, among others:

People Management:  Motivating and Engaging Employees, Managing Team Conflict, Leading with Purpose, and

Analytical Reasoning:  Making Decisions, Decision Making Strategies, Executive Decision Making

It's not hard to find free, conveniently accessible online courses to bolster your skills level in virtually any area.

Here's a link to 400 free courses offered by Harvard, Columbia and other top universities in various areas, including areas germane to working in the nonprofit arts, including:

Business:  Introduction to marketing; Introduction to Operations Management; Customer Analytics; Viral Marketing and How to Craft Contagious Content; Social Impact Strategy: Tools for Entrepreneurs and Innovators; Arts and Culture Strategy [highly recommended]; Managing the Value of Customer Relationships; Selling Ideas: How to Influence Others, and Get Your Message to Catch On; Decision-Making and Scenarios; Crowdfunding; Management Fundamentals; The Power of Team Culture; Developing Breakthrough Innovations with the Three Box Solution.

Social Sciences:  Networks, Crowds and Markets; CitiesX: The Past, Present and Future of Urban Life.

Data Science:  People Analytics; Introduction to Spreadsheets and Models.

And that's just a small sampling from this one list.  If you want to improve your professional skills, or even personal growth, a little time spent Googling a search for what you are looking for will doubtless produce myriad lists of offerings - all at your level, accessible at your convenience on your schedule, and free.

If professional or personal development is one of your resolutions, take a course in something that interests you.  If you don't like it, drop it and try another.  And if you do find one that you think was of real benefit, share it with your coworkers and colleagues.

Happy Learning.

Don't Quit