Reassessment of Support for Arts Organization Resources

A summary report on a series of ten colloquia

Convened by the NEA and organized by Bay Consulting Group

2000, 77 pages. NEA, 1100 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, Washington, D.C., 20506-0001, 202-682-5400.

In 1999, Bill Ivey, as a part of his reevaluation of the NEA's funding strategies, convened a series of ten colloquia to discuss how arts institutions can more effectively serve their communities. Forty-one speakers participated; about half are well-known to GIA members and the other half included experts from intersecting fields such as advertising, entertainment, Internet services, and charitable gift funds.

The key take-aways should come as no surprise to GIA readership. Arts organizations continue to be undercapitalized, understaffed, and fragile, and as such lack resources for risk-taking, knowledge-
sharing, and keeping up with rapid changes in technology. They are currently facing widespread leadership transitions. For all these reasons, the nonprofit arts are unable to change as flexibly or creatively as other sectors.

The colloquia and the publication were organized by the Bay Consulting Group. They have made the best of the daunting challenge of organizing a conversation with more than forty speakers by organizing the comments across eight themes: entrepreneurial strategies, community engagement, technology, human resources, organizational development, arts philanthropy, and resource needs. But, as befits design-by-committee, the comments read as impressionistic pieces rather than as coherent presentations.

What I found most useful, besides being introduced to some new names from related fields, was the four-page bibliography of books and articles. I highlighted about seven that I would like to know more about. I also learned a handful of new factoids:

• The Fidelity Investment Charitable Gift Fund has raised $2.2 billion and distributed $1 billion (nine percent of which went to arts and culture).

• National Arts Stabilization recommends the maintenance of working capital levels at ten to thirty percent of an organization's operating budget, while its endowment should total between 200 and 500 percent of annual expenses.

• The dichotomy between “have” and “have-not” arts organizations will loom larger in the future. Now smaller institutions spend five to ten times as much for each dollar raised.

• Two examples of using public means to tap private resources: Arizona Arts Trust Fund derives more than $1 million annually from the $15 annual filing fee required of for-profit corporations. Arizona Art Share draws on the state's commercial entertainment tax (a sales tax on movie theaters and sporting events) to support its institutional- development efforts.

• A series of case studies are on the NEA Web site.

For those who would wish to go further, the booklet is organized for fast scanning with key points, quotes, and case study material highlighted in the big print that we like. In addition, three helpful sidebars are offered: “The Fifteen ‘C's of Entrepreneurship” from the Institute for Social Entrepreneurs (page 13), “Organizational Life Cycles” by Susan Kenny Stevens (page 41), and John Kreidler's “Supporting the Arts Ecology” (page 42).

Melanie Beene, James Irvine Foundation