Steve's blog

Governance Lessons from the SD Opera: Culture, Transparency and Bravery

From Eileen Cunniffe, writing for Nonprofit Quarterly:

This weekend, the San Diego Opera will open its 50th anniversary season — a season that came perilously close to being cancelled when the company’s board voted last March to cease operations at the end of the 2014 season. Nearly ten months after the company and its board began a highly public meltdown, followed by a hard-won battle to re-engage the community and restructure the organization, San Diego Opera was featured at the 11th annual Nonprofit Governance Symposium at the University of San Diego on January 10. In a panel discussion titled “Saving the Opera: Lessons Learned from a Board Perspective,” current board president Carol Lazier, board members Linda Spuck and Joe Watkins, and new CEO Keith Fisher shared insights from the wild roller coaster ride they’ve experienced since last spring.
Nonprofits Win Key Victory in Overhead Battles With Government

From Tim Delaney at The Chronicle of Philanthropy:

Rather than focusing on what Congress will (or won’t) do in the new year, foundations and other nonprofits would do well to take a close look at a little-noticed overhaul of federal grant-making rules — in the works for three years and that took effect the day after Christmas — that could provide meaningful traction for ending the so-called nonprofit starvation cycle.
NFF Begins 2015 State of the Sector Survey

Nonprofit Finance Fund has just announced the State of the Nonprofit Sector Survey for 2015 is now open. NFF conducts the annual nationwide survey to examine challenges and trends in the nonprofit sector, and it has become an important source of information for arts and culture organizations. Last year, more than 900 arts and culture organizations responded to the survey, contributing a wealth of information to the field. With your help, we can do even better in 2015! GIA presented a Web Conference to examine last years survey findings. You can watch that Web Conference session online.

Joan Mitchell Foundation Announces Christa Blatchford as New CEO

The Joan Mitchell Foundation has announced the appointment of Christa Blatchford as their Chief Executive Officer, effective January 1, 2015. Blatchford returns to the Foundation after serving as its Deputy Director. As CEO, she will oversee the programming, administration and operations of the Joan Mitchell Foundation’s two New York City locations, the home office and the newly opened Education & Research Center, as well as the Joan Mitchell Center, an artist residency center in New Orleans, LA. Prior to serving as the Foundation’s Deputy Director, Christa was the artist support director for the Foundation, overseeing such national programs as Creating a Living Legacy (CALL).

Julie Fry Moving From Hewlett to Cal Humanities

John McGuirk, program director at The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, has announced that Julie Fry will step down from her position of program officer on January 23. She will join Cal Humanities, the statewide humanities council, as President and CEO in early February. Hewlett has begun the search for a new program officer and the job description is available on the Foundation’s website.

Barry's Blog Interview with Danielle Brazell

Barry's Blog sits down with Danielle Brazell, general manager for the Department of Cultural Affairs, City of Los Angeles:

Danielle was Arts for LA’s (the Los Angeles regional arts advocacy arm) first executive director, joining the organization in 2006 as it transitioned from an ad hoc committee of regional arts leaders to a formalized 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. Over the last eight years, she has steadily built Arts for LA’s capacity from an informal network of arts leaders to a respected coalition of advocates working in partnership with elected officials throughout Los Angeles County. Today, Arts for LA’s network includes over 160 member organizations and over 40,000 people...
Report Explores How Cultural Institutions Embrace Digital Media

A report from the Philadelphia-based Wyncote Foundation, Like, Link, Share: How cultural institutions are embracing digital technology, highlights examples and lessons learned from legacy cultural institutions that are successfully embracing digital media in their work. The report and its accompanying website describe the leadership and organizational capacities required for pioneering such work. It presents 40 organizations’ work including art museums, symphony orchestras, theaters, dance companies, historical societies, libraries, and science centers in the U.S. and abroad. Based on site visits, interviews, and other research the report offers insights about how digital media work is getting done and what results and benefits have accrued.

Message to Cultural Groups: Rent, Don’t Buy!

Duncan M. Webb, president of Webb Management Services, posts to The Clyde Fitch Report:

Here in New York City, the Department of Cultural Affairs has a wonderful program to help groups acquire, build and/or renovate spaces. As you might expect, when the funding source is attached to federal HUD grants, the process to qualify for this support and to work through the actual process of buying/building/fixing is lengthy as well as cumbersome. Groups are briefed and trained to go through the process with lots of warnings about how long it might take and how much effort will be required.

A few years ago, my firm surveyed 10 organizations that went through DCA’s capital funding process to receive City support toward developing a new or improved facility. Here’s what we found out:

  • Even though the groups factored some delay into the project timeline, it almost always took significantly longer to complete than anticipated.
  • Most groups underestimated the time required to develop new sources of earned and contributed income, and found that private funding did not increase to support the more expansive operation.
  • Groups did not anticipate staffing changes as a result of new facilities; and in some cases were unable to afford new staff, leading to significant burnout among existing staff even before new facilities were open.
  • Frustrated boards did not appreciate how long it would take to stabilize operations in new facilities, and did not foresee how few financing options exist to help cultural groups successfully transition into new facilities.
NEA 2015 Funding Guidelines Posted, Webinars Planned

The National Endowment for the Arts has published guidelines and application materials for two funding categories. The 2015 Art Works and Challenge America programs support projects anticipated to take place beginning in 2016. Any nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization, unit of state or local government, or federally recognized tribal community with at least a three year programming history is eligible to apply for project-based support through these two programs. Webinars are scheduled for January 21 and March 11, 2015 to provide technical assistance in the application process.

Measuring Cultural Engagement: A Quest for New Terms, Tools, and Techniques

Measuring Cultural Engagement: A Quest for New Terms, Tools, and Techniques is a new report from the National Endowment for the Arts that summarizes a convening held at the Gallup Headquarters in Washington, DC, in June of 2014. The NEA and the Cultural Value Project (CVP) of the United Kingdom’s Arts & Humanities Research Council convened leading researchers, practitioners, and policymakers from a handful of countries to challenge assumptions about how and why public involvement in arts and culture is measured and to identify research needs and opportunities to promote more meaningful measurement.