Thought of the week: We need each other

Some cities have funder networks that meet regularly. These groups are becoming more important and are developing joint programming, if they weren’t doing it already. Studies, loan funds, pooled funds are only a few ideas that are becoming realities. As funders, sometimes your work can seem isolated. GIA encourages grantmakers in the arts to meet regularly with their peers, from all sectors of giving. We are in a time where collective thought and collaboration will bring about new ideas and restored optimism.

The Brooklyn conference, Navigating the Art of Change, October 18-21, 2009, is shaping up to be an amazing discussion of our times and our solutions to challenges. Your participation in driving that discussion is huge! Please think about submitting a proposal for session based on one of the seven topic areas we’ve identified or define a topic for a breakfast roundtable discussion. Good candid talk across sectors and all arts grantmakers is my goal for this conference! Please join in.

As I talk to our members from around the country, three important aspects of our work keep emerging:

  1. What are other funders doing?
  2. How can my organization or agency support our grantees with fewer funds?
  3. Is this the time to do business as usual – just less of it – or is this the time to assess the arts field and change who we are funding and why we are funding them?

At GIA, we are attempting to address these issues and get you the latest information on all of them. That’s why we’re created an Economic Turmoil blog, phone forums on the Recovery Act and more, and the weekly Bulletin for members. We are also working on an entirely new interactive open-source website which you’ll see this summer. You might want to place our new blog site on your bookmark toolbar. It’s giarts.wordpress.com.

The NEA has designed a jobs program with their stimulus money. State agencies have already applied for their 40% of the $50 million. The deadline for arts groups applying directly is April 2nd. Those groups who have NEA funding in the past three years are eligible. Foundations funders can encourage those who missed this deadline to keep in touch with their state and regional arts agencies that will be allocating their stimulus money in the future.

There are two recent pieces of legislation very friendly to the arts. S 676 would change the way foundations pay excise tax on their net investment income (this bill is pending in the Senate.) HR 1388 would greatly expand federally sponsored volunteer programs supported by Democrat Ted Kennedy and Utah Republican Orrin Hatch (the House is expected to act on this measure next week.) further information on both these items can be found on our Economic Turmoil blog.

This week, GIA president Vickie Benson and I will meet with Washington DC grantmakers in the arts, Steve Gunderson, president of Council on Foundations, Tim Waltner, executive director of the Association for Small Foundations, Patrice Walker Powell, acting chair of the NEA, Bob Lynch of Americans for the Arts and Jonathan Katz of the National Assembly of State Arts Agencies. It’ll be a busy week in Washington DC.

I’ll be in San Francisco and Los Angeles in mid-April meeting with the Northern California Grantmakers and the Los Angeles Grantmakers. In May, I’ll be in Atlanta and Detroit. Everywhere I go I encourage existing networks to strengthen and new networks to begin.

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