Tuesday, December 29, 2009

We TV, Goodwill partner for volunteer push

DMNews reported that We TV has launched its “Pledge 24 in 2010” campaign with Goodwill as a partner. The effort targets women and encourages them to pledge 24 hours of volunteer work in the coming year.

The initiative runs through January 31, 2010. Participants can visit WEVolunteer.tv to pledge. Users who enter are required to submit name, mailing and e-mail address, birthday, gender, phone number and the organization for which they plan on volunteering.

After submitting the personal data, users have the option to opt-in to any of four e-mail newsletters from We TV. The network distributes the We TV, We Love Pets, We Go Bridal and We Are Singles newsletters. We TV has more than 310,000 users in its e-mail database.

Kenetta Bailey, SVP of marketing for We TV, said that building the network's e-mail database is not a primary goal of the campaign. “But if people are interested in more information on We TV, we want to give it to them,” she said.

We TV's “We Treat” community newsletter goes out twice a week and has content including advice, recipes, TV show schedules, announcements and updates.

After users sign the pledge, they are automatically entered into We's “Chic in the City” sweepstakes, in which they can win a trip for two to New York to attend a movie premiere and after party, two nights in a boutique hotel, dinner and a $200 shopping spree at Saks Fifth Avenue.

There are also perks for the nonprofit partners. The organization that receives the most pledges will receive a PSA package from We TV, including 60 PSA spots to run on sister network Wedding Central during April 2010, national volunteer month. The winning nonprofit will get a one-month spotlight as “Charity of the Month” on WEVolunteer.tv with a banner that links to a full-page profile.

Actress Cynthia Nixon of Sex and the City will appear in a series of We TV PSAs in 2010 encouraging consumers to volunteer with the tagline “What a difference a day makes.”

We TV is also reaching out to more than 150 nonprofits to urge their volunteers and members to pledge 24 in 2010. Read more here.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Nonprofits Portrayed in Popular Culture

A great article was offered by Blue Avocado earlier this year about examples of nonprofits in popular culture:

Queen Latifah in"Life Support" is a refreshing exception to how nonprofits are typically portrayed in popular culture. As Ana in this 2007 film, she works her butt off at Life Support, an AIDS education noprofit, but neglects her family and endangers her own health (sound just a little familiar?). Through Ana, we catch glimpses of what we know community nonprofits to be: fiercely committed, under-staffed, and essential life support to their clients and the community writ large.

In contrast, nonprofits are more usually invisible, stereoptyped, or off-camera employers of minor characters. For example, in "The West Wing," Mary Louise Parker played the director of a women's rights group deeply enmeshed in policy work. Several "Curb Your Enthusiasm" characters interact with NRDC, a nonprofit where producer Larry David’s ex-wife is active in real life. References to the real-life Los Angeles Gay & Lesbian Center as well as to the fictional California Arts Center pop up in "The L Word." Read more here. Share your own examples here.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Dutchess County YMCA files for bankruptcy

The Poughkeepsie Journal reported that the Dutchess County YMCA has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, hoping to use proceeds from the sale of its shuttered facility to settle debts and once again offer programs to residents.

Whether that will happen depends on how much the agency can make from the sale of its 40-year-old Montgomery Street facility in the City of Poughkeepsie, which closed in January following financial problems caused in part by the struggling economy.
Thomas Genova of Wappingers Falls, the YMCA's bankruptcy attorney, said the sale could allow the agency to pay creditors and emerge from bankruptcy within two years.
"We're hoping for a successful case where all creditors are satisfied in full," Genova said.

The YMCA's 60,000-square-foot building has been on the market for more than a year at $1.95 million. Read more here.

Nonprofits reeling after the year of Madoff

Crain's New York reported that pne year after swindler Bernard Madoff was arrested for orchestrating a massive Ponzi scheme, many affected charities are still sifting through their financial rubble.

Nancy Falchuk will never forget the phone call. She was in Boston, it was raining and the news was bad. Hadassah, the century-old Jewish charity she had been elected to lead a year earlier, had just lost a big chunk of its endowment in a Ponzi scheme — maybe as much as $90 million.

The man responsible for this disaster, the world would soon know, was Bernard Madoff.

"I don't even say his name anymore," Ms. Falchuk said in a phone interview this week.

The leaders of scores of charities around the country, and the world, found themselves living a similar nightmare in the days after Mr. Madoff's Dec. 11, 2008, arrest on charges he orchestrated the multibillion-dollar fraud, which affected thousands of investors.

With the global financial crisis in full bloom, 2009 was already shaping up to be a grim year for charities, but few have had such rough going as the philanthropies that learned a year ago Friday that some or all of their finances had been wiped out in the Madoff scandal.

Some, like the $1 billion Picower Foundation, the $240 million Betty and Norman F. Levy Foundation and the $198 million Chais Family Foundation, lost everything and shuttered within days.

Others survived. They have spent the year cutting staff, curtailing grants and hoping, often in vain, that new donors would step in and help replenish what they lost.

"It has been a very difficult year," said Richard Gordon, president of the American Jewish Congress, which saw a $21 million trust left to it by philanthropists Lillian and Martin Steinberg vanish in the fraud. "Like anything else, you go through anger and outrage, and over the year, I think you work through some of the issues. But there is a tremendous sense of loss of what you could have done."

The damage caused to charities, especially Jewish nonprofits and those that aided Israel, is still being assessed.

Scores of foundations and charitable trusts appear to have lost enough money because of Mr. Madoff, who was active in the Jewish community and knew the heads of many of the organizations that invested with him, to hinder or cripple operations. Others lost nothing but suffered anyway.

Jewish Communities of MetroWest New Jersey, a charity that didn't have a dime invested with Mr. Madoff, still had to slash operations after more than a dozen of its major donors, who had been giving $600,000 a year, were wiped out in the fraud.

Its chief executive, Max Kleinman, said it had to lay off 12 people, furlough staff and cut executive salaries.

Still, the work continued.

The Elie Wiesel Foundation for Humanity, founded by the writer and Holocaust survivor, said in a posting on its Web site that it still managed to have "a productive year," despite losing almost all of what it thought was a $15.2 million endowment.

"Thanks to generosity from around the country and world, with donations from $5 and up, we are pleased to let you know that we are able to honor all of our commitments and continue all of our projects," the message said.

American Society for Technion, which raises money for a technological institute in Israel, said that in 2009 it raised $77 million — slightly more than the book value of its vanished Madoff investments.

There were budget cuts and a small reduction in staff, spokesman Kevin Hattori said, but no programs were canceled.

But while several charity directors said they are optimistic about the future, a few are still wondering whether more bad news lies ahead.

Over the past 12 months, investigators unraveling Mr. Madoff's finances have learned that several charities that had invested with the swindler had withdrawn millions of dollars over the years that, unbeknownst to them, were false profits stolen from other investors.

Some of those groups face the possibility that they could be asked to give that money back. Read more here.

New Trends in the Arts?

A recent posted article from the Nonprofit Ventures blog offers news on a newly opened arts center that is a for profit enterprise. Is this a new trend? Share you thoughts. As the posted article relates:

The name is sure to grab the attention of would-be theatergoers. It’s catchy, it’s ambitious, it emphasizes a sense of place.

And yet, when the Rhode Island Center for Performing Arts at the Historic Park Theatre hosts its first stage production next weekend, the people who enter the state’s newest live entertainment venue will find more than just a theater.

In its new incarnation, the building that once housed the Park Cinema is also home to a café, a nightclub and a 200-seat all-purpose area that can serve as a restaurant for theatergoers, a comedy club and a room for receptions and business functions. Read more here.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Bridgespan Authors Identify Key Ways to Make Philanthropy More Effective

At year-end, many Americans turn their thinking to charitable giving. Our society faces tremendous challenges, yet charitable dollars have contracted dramatically over the past year. Everyone is being forced to do more with less, yet even thoughtful philanthropists struggle with how to get the most bang for their buck. In a brand new Harvard Business Review article: “Galvanizing Philanthropy,” authors Susan Wolf Ditkoff and Susan Colby offer specific strategies to help philanthropists raise their game, at a time when leveraging dollars is more important than ever. Their three pronged approach:

Get Clear: Philanthropists need to define what success looks like by wedding what they care about (values) with evidence (what works).

Get Real: They need to pragmatically assess the resources and time required to bring about change and solicit feedback from the field.

Get Better: They need to commit to systematic improvement and regularly review their entire funding strategy in light of both outside perspectives and nonfinancial assets.

It sounds simple, but it’s not. The authors point out that it takes discipline to create lasting change, and even the most well intentioned philanthropists fall prey to subtle traps along the way. Read more here.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Facing Leadership Transition? NYCON Offers Interim Executive Leaders

Offered by the New York Council of Nonprofts (NYCON)

Interim Executive Leaders can help manage your Nonprofit's Leadership Transition

In 2006, a study of 2,000 Executive Directors conducted by the Meyer Foundation and CompassPoint Nonprofit Services, noted that 75% of respondents did not plan to be in their current job in five years.

What is the Interim Executive Leadershp (IEL) Program?
The IEL Program is a comprehensive training, placement and support initiative designed to place qualified, experienced nonprofit professional in transitional Executive Director/CEO positions in New York State nonprofits.

The program is designed to help meet the needs of nonprofit agencies as significant numbers of nonprofit executives are expected to retire over the next 5 years.Leaders trained through our program can provide effective transitional leadership to nonprofits in order to strengthen organizational health and effectiveness during a time of transition.

Consider hiring an Interim Executive Leader if your organization:
  • Is currently operating without an Executive Director;
  • Has experienced Executive Director/CEO turnover in the last few years and the agency requires stabilization;
  • Is expecting your Executive Director/CEO to retire or resign, and you require sufficient time to conduct a thorough search process;
  • Is seeking an experienced, qualified nonprofit professional trained in transition management to guide the organization through a short-term period of transition
NYCON has developed a pool of highly qualified and experienced Interim Executive Leaders ("IELs") that are available to meet your needs.

For additional information please contact:
Jennifer Lockwood, Program Director
Email: jlockwood@nycon.org
Phone: 845.454.5062 ext. 102
Or click here to submit your inquiry online.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Do Most Nonprofit Groups Fail to Demonstrate Social Value?

The Chronicle of Philanthropy's Give and Take offers a look at various ideas being offered in the blogosphere. This opinon is definitely stirring up a reaction. As the Chronicle article relates:

Do most charities fail to show that they create benefits for society?

A foundation consultant argues that point and has stirred up a debate as he calls for more rigorous evaluation of nonprofit groups.

On the Philadelphia Social Innovations Journal, David E. K. Hunter, former director of evaluation and knowledge development at the Edna McConnell Clark Foundation, lays out what he calls “unpleasant truths” about charities.

No. 1 is perhaps the most controversial.

“While nonprofits work incredibly hard, with passion and dedication, and often in incredibly difficult circumstances to solve society’s most intractable problems, there is virtually no credible evidence that most nonprofit organizations actually produce any social value,” he writes. Read more here.

Share your own thoughts on this topic here.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

CRE Executive Director Hotline Helps Managers Get Answers by Phone

Funded by a grant from the New York Community Trust, a new Executive Director Hotline from Community Resource Exchange provides free practical advice to nonprofit leaders who need answers to management questions. Call 917-344-6678 during business hours. A flyer describing the hotline’s services is available on CRE’s web site.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Social-Service Charities Face Severe Financial Pressures, N.Y. Study Reveals

The Chronicle of Philanthropy reported that social-service charities are severely strained — and the worst may be yet to come.

Those were the most common refrains from leaders of the 244 New York City social-services charities polled in June.

Seventy-three percent of the charity leaders reported drops in private donations, 62 percent have seen dips in government support, and 75 percent have no endowment nor line of credit to get them through the tough times.

The survey — part of a study by Baruch College’s School of Public Affairs and the Human Services Council, both in New York — found that layoffs have become widespread.

Fifty-three percent had laid off employees in the past year, according to the study. Sixteen percent shed more than 15 percent of their work force. Read more here.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

United Ways 2009: A Confusing Mix of Missed and Missing Goals

In the Nonprofit Quarterly’s Nonprofits in the Age of Obama project, we have committed to following significant trends in and around nonprofits as our economic and political environment re-calibrates. This has led us to follow news reports of the traditional goal setting of the nation’s United Ways. We noticed some interesting trends and wanted to get your input on what you see happening in your locale.

One of the most important barometers of the recession's impact on nonprofits—and how nonprofits are adjusting to this increasingly terrible economic downturn—maybe found in the 1,400 affiliates and chapters of the United Way. At Nonprofit Quarterly, we increasingly find ourselves noticing changes in the United Way system that raise additional questions about the direction of this network

It's not simply that most reports on last year's campaigns, at least those reported in the press, describe fundraising shortfalls of as much as 20 percent, though some sites such as the Twin Cities appear to have made or surpassed goals. There are significant changes in United Way fundraising strategies across the nation.

During the past month, the NPQ Newswire has run several stories about an apparently new practice among United Way campaigns. United Ways in Sudbury, Ontario; Stanly County, North Carolina; Belleville, Ontario; Lee County, Alabama; and Kansas City, Missouri have eschewed the longstanding tradition of establishing fundraising targets for their annual campaign in favor of no-target or no-goal campaigns.

Ditching the longstanding common practice of setting a fundraising target is a major cultural shift in the UW system. Explanations of the fundraising shift vary from agency to agency. In Sudbury (Sudbury Star, September 10, 2009), the UW is substituting a target of increasing the number of individual donors from 9,000 to 12,000 for a dollar goal. Oddly, this is not because of poor campaign totals in 2008; Sudbury actually did well, surpassing its 2007 total by raising $2.4 million. But entering 2009, the locality faces layoffs in two ma-jor employers, thousands of job losses in the mining supple and service sector, and labor turbulence between local employers and locals of the United Steelworkers and others. Read more here.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Pro Bono Work Helps Firms Fight Economic Slump

The Wall Street Journal reported that aome small businesses are following the recession playbook of the unemployed.

Just as many laid-off workers are volunteering more to fill up their free time and enhance their résumés, small-business owners and their employees are doing more pro bono services or volunteer work as a marketing and customer-relations strategy.

The recession hit Studio G Architects Inc. of Boston particularly hard last fall, causing 2008 revenue to drop 30% from the prior year, says Gail Sullivan, the principal. Clients of the 16-year-old architectural firm killed or put on hold 10 projects last October. With work slowing down, the company began providing 15 to 20 hours a week in pro bono services to keep employees occupied and potentially attract future contracts. It worked.

This spring the firm prepared preliminary design projects, such as a playground for severely handicapped children, for various charities. The projects later received full funding and Studio G obtained several contracts, which ranged in value from $16,000 to $100,000. "Offering the pro bono services has given us a chance to maintain our design vigor [and] resulted in people hiring us," Ms. Sullivan says.

For a small business that has lost clients or seen revenue-generating projects dry up, performing free work is a way to keep employees engaged while cultivating new relationships. Donating services to charity groups, churches, schools and other nonprofits can "increase local visibility, deepen local business ties and create opportunity for new business," says Christine Banning, vice president of marketing and communications at SCORE, a Washington-based group that provides free counseling to small businesses.

While it is a strategy that can bear fruit in a tough economy, she warns that small-business owners should set parameters in terms of how much they give away. With charitable giving falling in 2008 for the first time since 1987, dropping about 2% from a year earlier, according to a Giving USA study released last month, more nonprofits could be seeking donations from local businesses.

That is why Robert Politzer, president and chief executive of GreenStreet of New York Inc., made sure his pro bono work can benefit his company in the future.

At a networking event four months ago, Mr. Politzer met the director of the Hudson River Clearwater Sloop Inc., a nonprofit that aims to preserve and protect the Hudson River. Now, the green-building and consulting firm is serving as the volunteer construction manager of the group's new headquarters in Beacon, N.Y. As a public-relations move, GreenStreet is uploading videos on YouTube as it documents the pro bono work. Read more here.

How can your nonprofit position itself to take advantage of these opportunities? Do you have examples of your own success with pro bono work? Share them here.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

With Donations and Grants Down, Social Service Agencies Feel the Pinch

The NY Times reported that across the city, nonprofit groups that provide social services to New Yorkers are reeling, trying to fulfill their core missions as demand for those services rises and their ability to provide them shrinks. With government, foundation and individual grants down by as much as 50 percent — not to mention withering endowments or investments lost to Bernard L. Madoff — agencies are trimming and delaying programs and cutting staff, in essence contributing to the very problems they exist to fix.

According to a survey conducted by Baruch College and the Human Services Council, which represents some 750 nonprofit social service providers, more than half saw some reduction in government financing in the last fiscal year, with more than a quarter losing an entire contract. The survey, to be released Sept. 9, also found that 80 percent of the respondents lost private financing, and that 73 percent had no reserves like endowments or lines of credit. Read more here.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Fall Roundtable "De-Accessioning and Museums"

Long Island Museum Association Fall Roundtable "De-Accessioning and Museums"
Date: September 21st, 2009

Registration begins at 9:00 and sessions will run until 12:30. The roundtable is free for LIMA members and costs $15 for non-members. To register, send your name, institution, address, telephone number and email address to LIMA, P.O. Box 1063, Huntington, NY 11743 or call (516) 224-5840 no later than Sept. 8, 2009. Cheques should be made payable to LIMA.

Location: Brookhaven National Laboratory, Berkner Hall (Bldg. # 488), Columbia Street Upton, NY


Save The Date
Friday, October 2, 2009

Annual Meeting and Luncheon
Historic Sites Futures Forum
Awards Towards Excellence and Cultural Heritage Award Presentations
At Overlook LodgeBear Mountain, NY10 am – 3 pm

Contact Greater Hudson for additional sponsorship, exhibitor, advertising, membership & registration information
Visit: www.greaterhudson.org
Email: info@greaterhudson.org
Tel: 914.592.6726

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Take Your Sponsorship Opportunity Online: New Social Media Tool

The New York Future Initiative reported on a developing social media site called Groupable, a free online community that connects grassroots organizations and groups with potential corporate and local sponsors.

The site, which is based in New York, was launched in a private alpha testing phase last summer and opened to the public in beta back in January.

"We saw that it was very difficult for small groups who can't afford to hire a full-time sales person to be able to connect wih sponsors," said Gerrit Hall, 28, of Park Slope, who created the site with Groupable's C.E.O., Nate Brochin, 45, of Millburn, N.J.

The methodology behind Groupable seems simple enough (even if the way it’s explained on the site is a bit hard to follow): group or sponsor registers; group searches for and connects with sponsor, or vice versa, based on common goals and interests; sponsorship is made.

So far, an array of New York City groups have registered, ranging from civic non-profits, to arts organizations, to underwater photographers. Even the New York Tech Meetup is on there, although it seems like its profile has been inactive since it was created back in August of last year. At least one political candidate is using the service, Mark Winston Griffith, who is running in the 36th District (Crown Heights/Bed Stuy) City Council race.

But does it actually work?

Mashable, the influential social media news site, says yes. It gave Groupable high marks in a recent review:
Groupable definitely is a strong network for sponsors and groups. It’s well built and makes everything easily trackable. The issue, as with many other social media services, is critical mass – you’re probably not going to find a lot of local sponsors on Groupable yet. But even if you don’t find groups or sponsors through the service, you can add them yourself and use the platform to manage your sponsorships, making it a tool that groups that do a lot of fundraising should consider. Read more here.

Overall, the concept makes sense, and it can only help give more exposure to nonprofits and their sponsorship opportunities. It would seem sponsors would like the concept too. Do you think this has potential? Share your thoughts here.

NYS Arts Action Update

NYS Arts related that Rocco Landesman was confirmed by the Senate as the new Chairman of the NEA. In an article in the NY Time on August 8, Mr. Landesman said that as chairman he will focus on the potential of the arts to help in the country's economic recovery. "'I wouldn't have come to the [National Endowment for the Arts] if it was just about padding around in the agency,' he said, and worrying about which nonprofits deserve more funds.' We need to have a seat at the big table with the grown-ups. Art should be part of the plans to come out of this recession.' 'If we're going to have any traction at all,' he added, 'there has to be a place for us in domestic policy.' He talked about starting a program that he called 'Our Town,' which would provide home equity loans and rent subsidies for living and working spaces to encourage artists to move to downtown areas. The program would also help finance public art projects and performances and promote architectural preservation in downtown areas". Mr.Landesman has already shown himself to be an outspoken, forceful, and passionate promoter of the arts. He has a loud and bold style.

Fractional Gifts Bill introduced in Senate
The Wall Street Journal, 8/82009
"Donating art to museums could soon become attractive again for wealthy collectors. Reacting to museums' complaints of sharp declines in art donations, a bill announced [August 7] by Sen. Charles Schumer, a New York Democrat, could revive the practice of so-called fractional gifts by making the process easier and more tax-advantageous. Before the 2006 Pension Protection Act, collectors were allowed a tax break when they donated a work of art incrementally, giving away a certain percentage of rights to the work each year. Pieces like the Hope Diamond, given to Washington's Smithsonian Institution, and New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art's Annenberg Collection can be attributed to fractional giving. Restrictions in the act prevented donors from realizing tax benefits on the appreciation of the art's value and limited the time allotted to complete the donation to 10 years." read the article

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

In Loving Memory: Offering A Nonprofit Message

Here is an interesting communication sent out by Anthony K. Shriver after his mother, Eunice Kennedy Shriver, passed away today. How does your nonprofit handle the passing of long-time supporters? How do you feel about advocating for nonprofits when you are also dealing with a death? Share your thoughts or own experiences with us below.

Dear Best Buddies Family,

It is with a somber heart that I write to share with you that my beloved Mother, Eunice Kennedy Shriver, passed away today Tuesday, August 11.

She now has entered God's magnificent embrace in the same manner that she lived: at peace, surrounded by those who loved her.

Accordingly, my Mother's efforts on behalf of individuals with intellectual disabilities – particularly her work with Special Olympics – inspired me to similarly devote my life to this shared mission. Through her unwavering faith in their abilities, she helped me – and countless others – to appreciate the fact that everyone is capable of something exceptional; especially with the support and encouragement of friends and family. Through her exemplary endeavors, I learned that this support network is one of the most valuable assets anyone can and should have, regardless of one's abilities or disabilities.

My Mother's lifelong commitment to people with intellectual disabilities also taught me that there is no greater joy than the satisfaction of contributing one's time and energy to the enhancement of another person's life. The act of giving is the most rewarding manner by which to conduct each of our lives. Indeed, I know that my Mother continuously experienced such joy throughout her life.

With my Mother's passing, the Best Buddies family has lost one of its most magnanimous supporters and advocates. I know that like me, many of you will miss her smile, her words of encouragement, and simply her wonderful presence. Yet, I am comforted that her indelible spirit will always be with us, guiding us in our efforts to complete her vision for persons with intellectual disabilities ... for she knew that her fight for equality was far from completed.

On her behalf, and as we convey our last farewell, my family and I express our profound gratitude for your shared commitment to that collective dream. We would be honored if you would take some time to learn more about her life, share your own remembrances about her, and read those of others at www.eunicekennedyshriver.org. I hope that you will not only read and perhaps contribute to the site, but also share it with your friends and family.

In lieu of flowers, and your sentiments indeed are forever appreciated, please consider making a donation in my Mother's name to an organization dedicated to the individuals she so lovingly devoted her life to, such as either Best Buddies (www.bestbuddies.org) or Special Olympics (www.specialolympics.org), in order to help ensure that her inspiring legacy will live on in our mission of friendship.

Anthony K. Shriver
Founder and Chairman Best Buddies International

Monday, August 10, 2009

Community Forum recording now available: Behavioral Economics

Columbia Business School announces the Community Forum Series on the Economy is available to watch in its entirety.

Moderated by Columbia Business School Dean Glenn Hubbard, this forum's topic focuses on the burgeoning field of behavioral economics, whose insights into human decision-making are reshaping business, public policy and regulation. Included in the discussion are three faculty members who have done provocative research in the science of human behavior:

Gita Johar, Meyer Feldberg Professor of Business in the Marketing division, shares findings from her research examining unconscious influences on consumer behavior.

Eric Johnson, Norman Eig Professor of Business in the Marketing division, discusses how insights from the behavioral sciences can be leveraged to modify behavior.

Nachum Sicherman, professor in the Finance and Economics division, addresses the so-called "ostrich effect," or investors' reluctance to review their financial portfolios when markets decline.

To watch the recording, click here or visit http://www4.gsb.columbia.edu/execed/community-forum-jul?emailid=CommunityForum.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Economic Downturn Forces Groups to Get Creative

The NY Times reported arts groups, hit hard by the economic downturn, are seeking strength in numbers by forming alliances, pooling resources, networking and accommodating one another’s diminished circumstances.

The efforts, which sometimes bring together dissimilar groups, don’t always go smoothly. But by and large, the atmosphere is one of growing cooperation that works to artists’ benefit — and the public’s.

“There’s more of a willingness to work together because there’s a unique cause right now, and the cause is the fact there are economic issues,” said Stephen Sansone, president of the Untermyer Performing Arts Council in Yonkers and executive director of the Yonkers Downtown/Waterfront Business Improvement District.

Since May 1, four museums in Westchester County (the Hudson River Museum in Yonkers, the Hudson Valley Center for Contemporary Art in Peekskill, the Katonah Museum of Art and Purchase College’s Neuberger Museum of Art) and two in Fairfield County, Connecticut (the Bruce Museum in Greenwich and the Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum in Ridgefield) have allowed any of their members to be admitted to all six. The same goes for visitors who buy a same-day pass.

The plan — advertised as an alliance — has been slow to catch on, with only a handful of museum visitors taking advantage of it in a typical week. Still, arts groups say it is the first pact of its kind in memory among museums in Connecticut and New York, and its very existence is evidence of greater cooperation.

“It’s symbolic of our efforts to be creative in a very tough time,” said Peter C. Sutton, executive director of the Bruce, who, noting that his museum’s endowment was down 20 percent over the past year and its corporate support depleted, hosted the meeting in March at which the plan was formulated.

“Almost all nonprofits have suffered some loss in their endowments and had to institute economizing efforts, as we have,” he said, “and this is a good way for people to make the most of their local museums.”

Another kind of joint effort — one enjoying greater participation this year, its sixth — is Art Along the Hudson, a cooperative media campaign to promote the visual and performing arts in seven cities lining the river. Read more here about this and other efforts.

Monday, July 20, 2009

More towns and villages consider merging services

The Times Herald-Record reported on the debate of savings versus services around consolidation in local government and associated entities. As the article relates:

Maybrook Village Clerk Tina Johnson gets lots of compliments. Residents walk into Village Hall just to say thanks for the snowplowing and street sweeping.

But at tax time, they're not so congenial.

"It is a common refrain we hear all the time. 'We hate our taxes, but we love our services,'" said Scott Sittig, a senior research associate with the Center for Governmental Research in Rochester.

Sittig spends his days crunching numbers on proposed government consolidations in New York. With more than 10,000 local taxing agencies, this state also has the nation's second-highest tax burden, according to The Tax Foundation, and a mind-boggling system of overlapping special districts and governments.

In Orange County, there are 302 local governments with taxing power, including municipalities, school districts and special districts that tax for water and sewer.

In Montgomery alone, there are four fire districts, 22 elected board members, 100 full- and part-time police officers in four departments, and a town and three village governments whose 2009 budgets add up to almost $29 million.

It's just the type of place where consolidation could equal lower taxes and higher efficiency.
"Where there is clear overlap of governments, it makes a lot of sense to look at eliminating layers," Sittig said.

Easier said than done
In the last two years, more than 20 mid-Hudson localities have talked merger and efficiency, although none have acted. Read more here about the barriers and a new law Gov. Paterson has signed that should make consolidations easier.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

NYCON launches Interim Executive Leadership Program

The Interim Executive Director Leadership Program

Are You Looking for an Exciting Opportunity to Lead a Nonprofit Organization?
Consider becoming an Interim Executive Director!

What is the Interim Executive Director Leadership (IEL) Program? The Interim Executive Director Leadership (IEL) Program is designed to help meet the needs of nonprofit agencies as significant numbers of nonprofit executives are expected to retire over the next 5 years. The Interim Executive Director Leadership (IEL) Program is a comprehensive training, placement and support initiative designed for qualified, experienced nonprofit professionals in transitional nonprofit Executive Director/CEO positions in New York State. Interim Executive Directors trained through our program will provide effective transitional leadership to nonprofits in order to strengthen organizational health and effectiveness during a time of transition.

Consider Becoming an Interim Executive Director if you are a:
Current and/or former executive director with successful experience in nonprofit executive management;
Nonprofit professional who is currently or have already served as an Interim Executive Leader who would like to be involved with this initiative and receive specialized training to augment and build upon their current skills;
Nonprofit Professional or consultant who clearly demonstrates executive leadership knowledge, abilities, maturity and effectiveness.

Program Dates & Locations: Please note that space in the training sessions listed below is limited. Registrants must complete an application process that includes submission of a writing sample and at least one reference. Candidates who successfully complete the training and secondary evaluation process may be placed into Interim Executive Director positions through this program.

August 18th, 2009 - Albany, NY NYCON Main Office, 272 Broadway, Albany, NY
Time: 9:00 am to 5:00 pm Cost: $150, Training Materials & Lunch Provided

August 20th, 2009 - Rochester, NY United Way of Greater Rochester, 75 College Avenue, Rochester, NY Time: 9:00 am to 5:00 pm Cost: $150, Training Materials & Lunch Provided

For more information click here or please contact: Jennifer Lockwood, Program Director jlockwood@nycon.org(845) 454-5062 x. 102

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Bloomberg Announces Package of Media Initiatives for Economic Development

New York Future Initiative (NYFI) related the following announcement from Mayor Michael Bloomberg about a package of initiatives designed to strengthen New York's media sector, part of a broader push to diversify the city's economy and trigger some economic gains to make up for what's been lost on Wall Street.

The initiatives include a research center for media companies and universities, a tax-exempt bond program to help companies purchase new facilities, a media and tech fellowship, and a city affiliated co-working space for freelancers. Read the full details here.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Foundation offers reduced office space

The Chronicle reported that the New York Foundation for the Arts is offering some help to recession-plagued arts groups in the city: a chance to claim some discounted office space, according to Dana Variano on the PhilanthroMedia blog.

Citing a report in the Philanthropy News Digest, Ms. Variano says the foundation is now soliciting proposals from groups and artists that are affiliated with it. Read the article here.

The article suggests that this may be an opportunity for other nonprofits to explore by renting out space they may have to generate additional income.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Foundations Trim Staffs After Assets Slide Lower

The NY Times reported that foundations are decreasing their staffs in large numbers.

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation was the latest to announce a voluntary severance plan, offered this month to 42 percent of its 250 employees. In May, the Ford Foundation offered a similar plan to 140 of its 550 staff members.

Bradford K. Smith, president of the Foundation Center, a research organization, said foundations were resorting to job cuts after having adopted other cost-saving measures, like hiring freezes and reductions in benefits and travel budgets. Read the article here.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Arts organizations forge collective

The NY Times reported on 11 diverse downtown arts organizations that have come together to forge a collective and active response to the grim economic climate. Calling themselves the Lower Manhattan Arts Leaders, they meet once a week to plan strategy and exchange ideas about helping government policy makers and grant-making foundations become aware of the vital ways in which small arts groups feed the life of a neighborhood.

Support for the arts, in their view, is not simply a matter of cultural philanthropy, it’s also a smart and necessary way to sustain a vibrant urban environment, to keep any city from becoming a patchwork of chain stores, steroidal gyms and name-brand coffee shops. It’s forward-thinking city planning.

“I think we need to pay more attention to the artistic and cultural work that goes on in every neighborhood in this city,” Ms. Marting said. “We are part of what makes New York unique. It’s amazing the mixture of experiences you can have in a night. We are in danger of losing a lot of the fabric of our neighborhoods as they become more expensive, and arts organizations are on the front line.”

It’s a dangerous place to be right now because as everyone involved in the arts has become painfully aware, the steep economic slide of the past months has radically altered the climate. Grant-giving foundations have watched their endowments plummet in tandem with the stock market and have tightened the purse strings accordingly. Corporate giving has become scarcer still, with some companies even shying away from taking the usual generous credit for money already given rather than be seen spending on philanthropy as they slash costs and set employees adrift.

You might expect that the sudden scarcity of arts dollars would bring out a ruthless streak in the administrators charged with keeping their organizations afloat in rough economic waters. It would be only natural for companies to fight hard and fend for themselves as the never exactly enormous pie of arts money shrinks to the size of a two-bite tart. And yet the members of the Lower Manhattan Arts Leaders reacted in just the opposite way, banding together to create a collective front to fight the tough times.

Nello McDaniel, who runs the consulting group Arts Action Research, said: “It makes a tremendous amount of sense and also says a lot about the strength of these organizations.” Mr. McDaniel, who has attended some of the new group’s meetings, added, “Not so long ago the mind-set was a sort of castle-island. If you were a theater or dance organization, you built a moat to protect your turf, and the thought of sharing or reaching out was antithetical.”

Kevin Cunningham, the executive artistic director of 3-Legged Dog/3LD Art & Technology Center, which presents theatrical and multimedia works, was among the first to sense the seriousness of the impact as the economy began to sour last summer. Mr. Cunningham had weathered catastrophe before; 3-Legged Dog was the only arts producing organization to have its headquarters destroyed in the Sept. 11 attacks. Read the remainder of the article here.

The Group has also collected their combined economic impact to people and businesses. Have feedback or your own ideas to share? Post here.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Aspen Institute Taps Business for Social Change

BusinessWeek reported that at a time when the world's economy is in crisis, what could be more timely than a gathering of 160 innovative leaders from business, government, and the nonprofit sphere? The Aspen Institute, a public policy think tank, is hoping to set off some constructive frisson this week in Aspen, Colo., by bringing together representatives from its young global leadership programs around the world.

The three-day event is billed as a "reflective retreat." But based on the agenda, this is no peaceful monastic experience. The participants are taking on challenging topics. The programs include: "Leading in a Typhoon: Keeping Afloat in the U.S. Financial Crisis;" "Oops: Learning from Mistakes;" and "Biotech and Ethics: Where Do You Draw the Line?"

The conference will serve as the official launch of the institute's Aspen Global Leadership Network, a community of entrepreneurs who share a passion for tackling some of society's thorniest problems. Aspen's goal is to inspire participants to take on individual projects that put those values into action. "We say, 'You've been successful. Now what will you do that's significant and is going to change the direction of your country?' " says Peter Reiling, executive vice-president of the Aspen Institute.

A Call to Action
The gathering doesn't have the star-studded cast of the annual World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, but it may end up producing more concrete results. The WEF is known for its public posturing by governmental leaders and movie stars. This Aspen event is at its essence a call to action. It worked in the past. Ever since the institute established the Henry Crown Fellowship program in 1997, it has been challenging young business and government leaders to become social-change agents. Reed Hastings, chief executive of Netflix (NFLX), was inspired after he became a Crown fellow in 1998 to get involved in public education and later served on California's Board of Education.

Among some of the high-profile presenters at the conference are Sonal Shah, the newly appointed head of the White House Office of Social Innovation; John Wood, founder of Room to Read and author of Leaving Microsoft to Change the World; David Rubenstein, co-founder and managing director of The Carlyle Group; and Walter Isaacson, CEO of the Aspen Institute and former CEO of CNN, owned by Time Warner (TWX).

The Aspen Institute invited a handful of journalists to observe the event and publish dispatches. The setup is a little awkward. Some sessions are entirely off -limits. At others, quoting people directly is not allowed unless they give permission.

Still, the opportunity to give BusinessWeek readers a view into the minds of this group seems too valuable to pass up. So please check in often on this page for updates from the conference. And, of course, please weigh in with comments.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

NYS Cultural Data Project: New Tool for the Arts

The New York State Council on the Arts has joined to help launch the New York State Cultural Data Project (New York State CDP), a powerful management tool for arts and cultural organizations. This unique system will, at no cost, allow arts managers and artistic leaders to understand and analyze their organization’s financial performance through easy-to-run reports. By participating in the New York State CDP, you will be part of a successful and growing project that will allow researchers and the arts community as a whole to better articulate and provide evidence for the sector’s assets and needs, as well as its contributions to the state and the country. By completing the online form annually, you will also be able to generate reports to be submitted to grantmakers with the click of a button.

NYSCA believes that CDP could be of service to the field, particularly based on their experience with Cultural Blueprints. During the nine sessions held to date across the state, a common need for more robust research, advocacy and policy discussions with and about the cultural sector emerged. They believe that CDP has the potential to be a valuable tool in addressing these issues. Overall, they would like to engage the field in a conversation both about what those needs are and how CDP can help address them.

About CDP
An online system for reporting historical organizational and financial data, CDP will be offered at no charge to arts and cultural organizations (and entities/individuals with a fiscal conduit) across the state. Once an organization’s data has been entered into this 11 part, web-based form on an annual basis, the organization is able to:
  • Streamline grant applications to participating funders: Once data is entered into CDP, it doesn't need to be reentered when applying to the funders listed at the bottom of this email.
  • Generate one of 77 on-demand reports: Organizations can produce the data they have inputted for their own reporting and fundraising purposes, including presentations to board members, funders, staff and other audiences.
  • Ensure that your organization is included in major advocacy efforts: Aggregate data from CDP is available to all advocates, researchers and interested parties to help make the case for the arts in New York State.
Organizations can participate and benefit from the system regardless of whether they are a recipient of support from any of the participating funders. Additionally, there is a full-time Help Desk/hotline available to guide organizations in entering and understanding the data.

Get the most from the New York State CDP.
Attend a free demonstration and discussion.
Register for a demonstration and discussion by visiting www.nysculturaldata.org and clicking on "Attend a Demonstration and Discussion."

June 15 - 19, 2009, New York City

June 15, 9:30 am
Mark Morris Dance Center

June 15, 4:30 pm
Gracie Mansion

Staten Island
June 16, 9:30 am
St. George Theatre

June 16, 2:00 pm
Billie Holiday Theatre

June 17, 9:30 am
Pregones Theater

June 17, 2:00 pm
Studio Museum in Harlem*

Long Island
June 18, 9:30 am
Huntington Arts Council

Long Island
June 18, 2:00 pm
East End Arts Council

June 19, 9:30 am
Flushing Town Hall

June 19, 2:00 pm
The New 42nd Street Studios

Monday, June 1, 2009

How to Stand Out On One More Day Aimed at Volunteers

The NY Times featured a story about how a handful of nonprofits, with help from the White House, are working to rebrand occasions like Martin Luther King’s Birthday and Sept. 11 as national days of volunteering. As the article relates:

Add one more to the calendar: Mandela Day, July 18, when people around the world will be urged to perform 67 minutes of community service to honor the 67 years (and counting) that Nelson Mandela has fought for racial and social equality. The holiday is the brainchild of the Nelson Mandela Foundation and 46664, the advocate group that bears Mr. Mandela’s prisoner number.

But how to sell the public on yet another working holiday? An ad campaign.

Gotham, part of the Interpublic Group of Companies, is starting a campaign worth about $5 million, focused almost entirely in New York State, to introduce the holiday and break down the barriers that prevent people from volunteering.

“For 67 years Mandela has been fighting social injustice, and he’s even done it from a jail cell,” said Peter McGuinness, chairman of Gotham, which is based in New York. “We want to use his example to empower people to make a difference”

But Mr. Mandela’s face will cede the foreground to a more symbolic image for the ad campaign: hands. Everything about Mandela Day — including its icon and its television and Web ads — revolves around images of the hands of volunteers, meant to represent the impact an individual can make.

In a 30-second television spot that will begin showing on major networks on June 22, the hands of a volunteer in a soup kitchen fade into the hands of someone reading to a child, which fade into the hands of another person helping an elderly woman use a computer, and so on. Print ads will run in major newspapers and magazines, and outdoor ads will appear on bus shelters and phone kiosks.

Gotham has also produced a Web video in which actors like Morgan Freeman, Forest Whitaker and Sharon Stone show their hands to the camera. Visitors to the Mandela Day Web site will also be able to splice themselves into the video and share it with friends. Gotham executives say they hope that the video will go viral, spreading the message globally.

That site will also help people find their 67-minute volunteer opportunities. Through a partnership with VolunteerMatch.org, users can search for work based on cause and ZIP code. The site will include a heat map showing which areas are in greatest need that will “cool off” as people commit volunteer time. Read more here.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Local residents propose single-payer system

Hudsonreporter.com examines the calls for a single-payer health system. As the article relates:

Jersey City resident Bill Armbruster was laid off in February from his job as editor of a newsletter called the Shipping Digest, but he got to keep his health plan until August of 2010.

But he worries what will happen when his coverage expires.“If I try to buy insurance on the private market, I would probably have to pay at least $1,000 a month – if I could get it, and I doubt that I could,” Armbruster said. “That’s because I have neuropathy, a nerve disease, and the insurers don’t like to sell insurance to people with a pre-existing condition.”

He added, “At that point, I’ll be 61 – four years before I would be eligible for Medicare in August. I could be forced into bankruptcy if I get seriously ill or have a serious accident.”

This nightmare scenario could be allayed, according to Armbruster, if the United States had a single-payer health care system. Under the single-payer system, the government would pay for health care, much as it does with Medicare. That system would be implemented if Congress was ever to pass The United States National Health Care Act (HR 676), a bill that would expand and improve Medicare to 100 percent of all necessary medical care, including dental and psychiatric care and long-term care for everyone in the United States, with no deductibles and no co-pays.

It would be funded by a payroll tax of 4.5 per cent from employers and 3.3 per cent from employees, plus one third of one percent of all stock transactions.

The care still would be delivered by private doctors and health professionals. This system would also eliminate the need for many, if not all, private health care insurance companies.

HR 676 currently has the endorsement of over 75 members of Congress, including U.S. Rep. Donald Payne, who represents Jersey City and Bayonne. But it does not have the backing of the most important politician of them all – President Barack Obama.

Armbruster is among local residents who have been pushing for support for the bill.

Single payer has its advocatesPhysicians for a National Health Program, a Chicago-based non-profit organization of 16,000 physicians, medical students, and health professionals, has advocated for single-payer national health insurance based on several findings:

- The U.S. is tops amongst industrialized countries in the amount spent on health care, $8,135 per person, yet 47 million people nationwide are without health coverage.
- Private insurance bureaucracy and paperwork consumes 31 per cent of every health care dollar.
- Payment through a single nonprofit payer would save more than $350 billion per year, they say.

A recent study commissioned by the California Nurses Association found that improvements to Medicare to make it a single-payer plan would create 2.6 million new jobs, infuse $317 billion in new business and public revenues, and inject another $100 billion in wages into the U.S. economy.

But advocates aren’t just engaged in academic research to support their cause. Scheduled for this weekend is a National Day of Action on Saturday in various cities such as New York, organized by a coalition of non-profits, to call for the single-payer system. And on Sunday, a conference on single-payer health care will be held in Princeton.

This activity will be the latest of several to spotlight the issue. A more extreme event took place earlier this month during a protest at a Congressional hearing on health care reform that led to the arrest of 13 health professionals, who took issue with single-payer advocates being shut out of the hearing. Read more about this issue.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

On the Street and On Facebook: The Homeless Stay Wired

The Wall Street Journal offered an article about how even the homeless are connected online. As the article relates:

Like most San Franciscans, Charles Pitts is wired. Mr. Pitts, who is 37 years old, has accounts on Facebook, MySpace and Twitter. He runs an Internet forum on Yahoo, reads news online and keeps in touch with friends via email. The tough part is managing this digital lifestyle from his residence under a highway bridge.

"You don't need a TV. You don't need a radio. You don't even need a newspaper," says Mr. Pitts, an aspiring poet in a purple cap and yellow fleece jacket, who says he has been homeless for two years. "But you need the Internet."

Mr. Pitts's experience shows how deeply computers and the Internet have permeated society. A few years ago, some people were worrying that a "digital divide" would separate technology haves and have-nots. The poorest lack the means to buy computers and Web access. Still, in America today, even people without street addresses feel compelled to have Internet addresses.

Skip Schreiber goes online in his van, which is also his home, in San Francisco's Bayview district.
New York City has put 42 computers in five of the nine shelters it operates and plans to wire the other four this year. Roughly half of another 190 shelters in the city offer computer access. The executive director of a San Francisco nonprofit group, Central City Hospitality House, estimates that half the visitors to its new eight-computer drop-in center are homeless; demand for computer time is so great that users are limited to 30 minutes. Read more here.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Some cities look to save money by merging nonprofits

The San Francisco Examiner features a story about the mayor's call for nonprofit mergers. As more and more cities, counties, and states look at options like this, what are the factors being examined? Is the true impact of the nonprofit community understood? The article below offers few details about why the City arrived at this decision. As the article relates:

The City lacks a clear vision and plan for the $500 million it spends annually on nonprofit organizations that provide vital services to residents, according to a new report.

That assessment comes as nonprofits face an uphill battle to survive during the recession, and as demand for charity increases. More than half the 804 nonprofits that received financial aid from The City last fiscal year provide health and human services to residents.

San Francisco is also facing a projected $438 million deficit for next fiscal year — a deficit that will result in layoffs, service cuts and decreases in contracts with nonprofits.

Now, a survey commissioned by Mayor Gavin Newsom suggests that struggling nonprofits should merge with others or completely shut down. The report’s authors also want nonprofits to find funding from more than one source and will complete a plan that lays out future priorities for nonprofits.

The report also calls for better oversight of organizations that receive public money.
“City departments should more assertively implement, monitor and take action on corrective action plans for nonprofits with grave performance and compliance issues,” the report said.
San Francisco organizations that receive 100 percent of their funding from taxpayers are most at risk in a down economy, said Sandra Hernandez, CEO of the San Francisco Foundation, which co-authored the report with City Attorney Dennis Herrera.

The San Francisco Foundation is an umbrella organization that grants funds to a variety of smaller nonprofits.

Charity arms
A new report suggests some city nonprofits would be better off merging or shutting down entirely.
7,093: Registered nonprofits in The City
54,000: San Franciscans employed by nonprofits
804: Nonprofits contracted by The City in 2007-08
$483 million: Amount spent by The City on nonprofits
$58 million: Amount spent by The City on indirect costs

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Facebook clicks with Lower Hudson Valley nonprofits

LoHud.com reported that Facebook isn't just for hooking up with your friends, finding old college roommates and getting updates on your favorite TV show.

Not-for-profit organizations are increasingly making their presence known on the popular online social network.

Several Lower Hudson Valley agencies recently created profile pages to call attention to their programs, raise money from their newfound "friends" and attract a new generation of volunteers.

"Facebook is really the new frontier in terms of communicating with current donors, having the potential to find new donors and really having the chance to stay in touch on a much more instantaneous level," said Rand Otten, a spokeswoman for Putnam ARC, a Brewster-based organization that works with people with developmental disabilities.

Putnam ARC has a multitiered presence on Facebook - a profile page, a user group for Partners with PARC, its charitable arm, as well as a "cause" page for donations.

"In this day and age, you need to be available," said Otten, who also has PARC on the social networks Twitter and LinkedIn.

There are no hard numbers available on how many local nonprofits are using Facebook, but a quick search by county and agency name turned up fewer than 30 agencies.

Officials acknowledge they aren't quite sure how to harness the potential of tapping into Facebook's 200 million active users worldwide. But they did know that Facebook's fastest-growing demographic is people 35 and older, just the kind of people who support causes with time and money.

"I don't think there is a better option than Facebook right now," said Kiera Pollock, director of sexual trauma services for the Rockland Family Shelter, which works with victims of domestic violence.

While national nonprofits such as the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals have developed a strong following on Facebook, Pollock said, the challenge will be for local agencies to get the word out. To that end, Pollock wants to do more than just post event listings and photographs. She plans to create a discussion board where young people can talk about issues.

A recent survey of more than 1,000 nonprofits nationwide found that three had a presence on Facebook, most for less than two years.

Holly Ross, executive director of NTEN: The Nonprofit Technology Network, one of three groups that conducted the survey, said 40 percent of survey respondents reported raising money on Facebook, but 29 percent raised $500 or less over the past 12 months.

"You don't want to have high expectations at this point because we don't know how to do it the right way yet," said Ross, whose organization is based in Portland, Ore. "At this point, you should be thinking of it as an experiment."

Laura Schwartz, executive director of the White Plains-based Child Abuse Prevention Center of New York, said her reason for joining in March was exposure.

"We're one of the best-kept secrets in Westchester and that's really horrible for a nonprofit," said Schwartz, whose agency employs six people and has 68 volunteers.

Otten, of Putnam ARC, recently hosted a breakfast to introduce social networking for area nonprofits. Of the 25 nonprofits in attendance, fewer than five were on Facebook. Most saw it as a better alternative than quarterly newsletters and e-mail blasts, but they didn't know how to set up a page (it takes about 15 minutes).

Plus, the price was right: free.

Since Meals on Wheels Programs and Services of Rockland joined Facebook's cause section two months ago, 84 people have joined. The Nanuet agency has also raised $210 toward its goal of $1,000 to provide home delivery of meals to four clients in June.

Jim Burton, assistant executive director for operations for Meals on Wheels, said his agency, like many nonprofits, isn't entirely sure of what it hopes to accomplish on Facebook, but he is certain that they need to be there.

"It's crucial because it's a world that revolves around technology," he said. "This is going to be expected by people down the road."

The American Association of Museum Federal News Update

President Releases FY10 Budget Details
On May 8, President Obama released the spending details of his $3.6 trillion budget proposal for fiscal year 2010. The proposal calls for nearly $17 billion in cuts and reductions to 121 programs and supports reinstitution of pay-as-you-go (known as "PAYGO") budget rules, which require any new spending increases to be offset by revenue increases or spending cuts.

The Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) Office of Museum Services (OMS) - which supports our nation's 17,500+ museums through a variety of competitive grant programs - is essentially level funded at the FY09 level of $35 million. Certain museums, however - which, by federal statute, are funded as quasi-government entities - fared well, with the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum receiving $49 million, the National Gallery of Art receiving $165.2 million and the Smithsonian Institution funded at $759 million.

The President's detailed budget plan also contains a measure - first proposed in February - to limit the deductibility of charitable gifts for those in the upper income levels.

Budget Highlights:
  • IMLS Office of Museum Services: $35 million (no increase)
  • National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH): $171.3 million (a $6.3 million increase over FY09, plus $10 million to move the currently independent National Capital Arts and Cultural Affairs program to the NEH).
  • National Endowment for the Arts (NEA): $161 million (a $6 million increase over FY09)
  • Arts in Education Programs at the Department of Education: $38.16 million (no increase)
  • National Science Foundation educational programs: $857.8 million (a $12.5 million increase over FY09). These funds support informal learning experiences designed to increase interest and engagement in the understanding of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).
  • National Park Service's Historic Preservation Fund: $77.6 million (an $8.1 million increase), including $20 million for Save America's Treasures.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Top billionaires hold secret meeting

MSNBC reported about a recent meeting in New York closed to the news media and the public, which was attended by Bill Gates, David Rockefeller Sr., Oprah Winfrey and other leading philanthropists. They met to discuss ways to promote efforts to solve growing social problems in America and abroad.

Together, the philanthropists in the room have committed a total of more than $72.5 billion to charitable causes since 1996, according to Chronicle of Philanthropy tallies.
The unusual event was held May 5 at Rockefeller University and was organized by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Among the high-profile participants were Ted Turner, Warren E. Buffett, George Soros and New York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg. (All of those philanthropists have appeared at one time on The Chronicle’s ranking of America’s most-generous donors.) Read more here.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Financial Management in Tough Times: Free Advice for Managing Your Organization Through the Recession

The Nonprofit Finance Fund is partnering with the Chronicle of Philanthropy to offer free, live, online chats on “Financial Management in Tough Times: Free Advice for Managing Your Organization Through the Recession”. Each chat will offer practical tips on some of the most pressing financial issues currently facing the social sector. A schedule of dates and topics can be found below. Note, the first event in this series is scheduled for Thursday, May 14. Click here or visit http://philanthropy.com/live/recession_series/ to learn more.

All online discussions will begin at 12:00 pm and will last one hour.
  • May 14, 2009: Beyond the Grant: What Nonprofit Leaders Need to Know about PRIs, Loans, Tax-exempt Bonds and Recoverable Grants
  • May 28, 2009: New Business Models for Arts Organizations
  • June 11, 2009: The Changing Role of Foundations
  • June 25, 2009: Making Capital Campaigns Work in the Recession
In addition, the Nonprofit Finance Fund offers a variety of services designed to help nonprofit organizations survive difficult economic times. To learn more, click here or visit www.nonprofitfinancefund.org.

Survival Strategies for the Arts

Blue Avocado featured a great article by John Killacky, artist and arts funder, about ten survival strategies for arts organizations and one for audience members:

The arts are where hope lives. And right now, as the very tenets of civil society are being re-written, and as health and human service needs rise, there is legitimate concern about whether the arts will survive, how the arts can thrive.

The arts, like every other nonprofit sub-sector, are being challenged by significant contribution losses from government, corporations, foundations, and private donors. Box office and gallery admissions are also eroding as discretionary dollars evaporate. Almost everyone agrees funding problems will become more acute in the upcoming three to five years. Adaptability is replacing growth as a barometer of success.

There's no question to me but that the arts organizations that have dynamic, interactive, authentic relationships with their constituents, audiences, and neighbors are the ones that will come out of this maelstrom stronger. Here are ten ideas for organizations and a potpourri of options for audience members.

1. Do more with less by doing something different. Groups are mounting four plays instead of six, sharing co-production costs, presenting biannual seasons instead of annual, shortening performance runs, mining permanent collections, and altering gallery hours to allow for higher production values, deeper engagement, and higher audience satisfaction. Capitalize to mission delivery, not sustainability. Michael Kaiser from the Kennedy Center is adamant: "We mustn't be scared into thinking smaller. Small thinking begets smaller revenue that begets smaller institutions and reduces excitement and involvement."

2. Place matters. Make sure the neighborhood feels your building is their community center or assembly hall. I loved when Yerba Buena Center for the Arts hosted an election night party last November -- a wonderful cultural celebration.

When I go to the theatre I ask myself: why is this theatre presenting this piece at this time in this community? Through your marketing materials, your programs, your audience involvement, make sure your audience can answer that question. Audiences will respond when they know why you are presenting a particular play/exhibit/dance. Eric Chinski of Farrar, Straus, & Giroux offers a potent reminder of relevance: "The word necessary comes to mind for me. Beyond a good story, beyond good writing, does the novel feel necessary?"

3. Invite the public in. Expand gallery labels. Dramaturgical notes are needed in every discipline. Pre-concert talks frame and empower audiences. Cultural contextualization translates, bridges, and illuminates artistic expression for both the cognoscenti and the general public. Visual artist provocateur Marcel Duchamp got it: "The closer the ratio is of what the artist sees versus what the audience thinks they see, the greater the artist.
Be transparent and frank about challenges. Ask for help. When the New York Times ran an item on the financial plight of San Francisco's Magic Theatre, an anonymous benefactor from Manhattan (with no previous history of support) stepped up with a major gift.

4. Let audiences co-author meaning: experiment with social media. Link young professionals into your company's social networks. Trendies can then see who is attending opening night, at intermission tweet friends on how fabulous and sexy the new dance is, and do a post-mortem chat on Skype with the artistic director. Find genuine ways for audiences to contribute and find meaning -- before, during, and after events. Try something small and see how it goes; find what's right you're your organization. Arts consultant Holly Sidford reminds us, "Participation is the most important renewable resource."

5. The middle class can save the arts. Consistently, 75% of private donations come from individuals and another 7% from bequests (GivingUSA). Religion garners one-third of this largess; arts, culture, and the humanities only receive 4%. None of us minds tithing to our mosque, temple, synagogue, or church. In the arts, we too offer transformational experiences, so let's operationalize the "church ask." Start with the people you know: audiences, volunteers, donors, and neighbors -- and ask for modest gifts, often. The Obama campaign proved the power of this kind of fundraising.

Does this mean passing the plate in the audience? Well, why not? Keith Hennessy has a free night in every run of his Circo Zero troupe, where the audience is thanked for coming and then asked to pay what they can. He reports contributions on free nights are higher than the usual box office per night.

6. Support the little league players. Sports teams know that the first sport we play is the one we follow -- that's why little leagues are integral to professional sports marketing. Arts researcher Alan Brown found 74% of orchestra subscribers sing or play an instrument. Similar correlations exist in dance, visual art, and theater. His conclusion: "Supporting personal practice is audience development."

Dance and theater companies that have schools guarantee a built in audience, as well as diversified income. Further, The Nutcracker and other holiday staples prove putting kids on stage is good for business. Getting back to the sports analogy, open rehearsals including informal meet and greets with artists are like pre-game warm-ups and autographs: they connect the amateur practitioners with the highest version of the art.

7. The First Global Generation. Pollster John Zogby finds Americans adjusting to the economic realities by "living with less, embracing diversity, looking inward, and demanding authenticity." These meta-movements are shared equally by Baby Boomers and what he calls the First Global Generation of 18 to 29 year olds.

Both generations are looking for meaningful experiences. They don't want to be told everything is "extraordinary;" but they do want to know what they will encounter and how they might feel. The arts community is perfectly situated to appeal to these roving bands of "secular spiritualists," but needs to speak directly without hyperbole.

8. Risk failing. Nonprofit arts organizations are not supposed to be commercial presenters; they are meant to provide genuine alternatives. As the sector looks to increase earned income, both mission drift and diluted impact are concerns. Commercial entertainment does not do very well chasing after blockbusters. Under-capitalized nonprofits will never be able to compete, so let's not try. Arts organizations need to be counter-intuitive in their offerings, truly providing alternatives in our community. Samuel Beckett's words from Worstward Ho are apt: "Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try Again. Fail again. Fail better."

9. Have the Conversation. Small businesses seldom survive decade after decade. Do you still have a unique and necessary role in the cultural ecosystem? Imagine strategic partnerships, joint ventures, and back office collaborations to improve economy of scale, as well as efficacy of program and service delivery. Merger, consolidation, and sunsetting should also be examined. A rigorous analysis of internal strengths and weaknesses and external opportunities and threats is called for.

10. Become a cultural citizen. Playwright Tony Kushner tells us, "When you don't act, you act; when you don't vote, you vote." Demand all politicians have an arts platform. Support only those that do. Hold house parties for arts friendly politicos. Invite them to openings and receptions and let them be noticed. When over 200 artists showed up in Oakland's City Hall to protest the proposed elimination the arts budget, City Council had no choice other than to reinstate. And better yet, run for school board to ensure arts are in every school, every day for every child. Claim your cultural agency.

P.S. Things audiences can do (and all of us are audience members). Go to Open Studios and buy art. Attend theater. Donate. Take salsa or tango lessons. Enjoy dance performances. Bring a friend. Donate. Sing with a chorus. Listen to live music. Donate. Write a poem, short story, or memoir. Buy a local author's book. Make art with your kids at home and at a museum's family day. Participate. Donate. Debate the merits of an independent film and then upload your own onto YouTube. Have a bake sale to support an artist residency in a nearby school. Host a season announcement, Tupperware-style, for friends. Commission an artist to commemorate a birthday or anniversary. When you love something, tell your friends. Word of mouth remains the best box office motivator.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Charities Rethink Glitz Quotient for Their Galas

A recent Wall Street Journal article explored how you throw a famous Wall Street gala fund-raiser when conspicuous consumption and investment bankers are no longer cool. As the article relates:

The Robin Hood Foundation faced that issue on Tuesday when it held its annual benefit in Manhattan. A year ago, the antipoverty charity's dinner included the auction of a trip to Australia to scuba dive and have lunch with Hugh Jackman. It went for $420,000. This year, the only prizes offered at New York's Javits Center were things like opportunities to feed hungry families, enroll children in charter schools and teach new parents to care for newborns.

"Consider this ... your Yom Kippur," quipped host Jon Stewart, referring to the Jewish Day of Atonement. "You're going to donate a lot of money. Not enough, obviously, to offset all the s- you've done, but a lot."

The toned-down event reaped nearly $73 million, topping last year's $56.5 million haul. Robin Hood, founded by hedge-fund manager Paul Tudor Jones II, used some Wall Street-style financial incentives to motivate giving in a potentially tough year: Financier George Soros and Robin Hood's board of money managers and corporate executives joined forces to match contributions dollar for dollar from guests' tables during a scaled-back auction. Tables donated about $28 million during the auction, and ticket sales for the event generated another $17 million.

As New York's first spring gala season since last year's market crash kicks into gear, all sorts of charities are facing a difficult juggling act: They need to tone down the glitz to respect the terrible economy and the bubbling anger toward Wall Street excess. But they still need to stage high-profile events to attract wealthy donors.

A bad night can seriously dent a charity's ability to maintain its programs. "For many nonprofits, a gala could be 25% of their annual income, and those dollars aren't going to come from somewhere else," says Melissa Berman, president and CEO of Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors. This year, she says, charities are trying harder to frame their events as "people coming together to help those less fortunate" to avoid the perception of "a bunch of clueless, thoughtless people drinking too much."

Project Sunshine, a New York charity that provides services to hospitalized children, plans to cut down on corporate signage and honor several volunteers instead of individual donors at its benefit later this month. (It does plan to honor a corporate donor.) But the charity will still auction a weeklong Caribbean trip and dinner with Kristen Dalton, the recently crowned Miss USA.

City Harvest, which distributes food to New York soup kitchens and pantries, shared the costs of its April benefit with another nonprofit. It also did away with large floral centerpieces and seating cards with fancy calligraphy. But donors could still bid on dugout seats to a Los Angeles Dodgers game. Rock star Rob Thomas performed. City Harvest's haul: a bit over $1 million, down slightly from $1.3 million in 2008. Read more here.

Network for Good Offers Free Trainings

Learn How to Create Sustainable Funding (Even in Rough Times) and Make the Most of Online Marketing Opportunities
Register now for any or all of the upcoming, free (as always) Nonprofit 911 teleconferences:
Last Chance to Register!

Tuesday, May 19: Creating Sustainable Funding, with Terry Axelrod of Benevon
Details and registration here.

Tuesday, May 26:Create an Online Strategy to Thrive in Tough Times, with Eric Rardin of Care2
Details and registration here.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

NYC Entrepreneurial Ventures for the Arts Program Free to Attend

Entrepreneurial Ventures for the Arts, supported in part by the New York State Council on the Arts, is set for Thursday, June 25th in NYC. The training will be presented by Doug Sauer, CEO, NYCON & David Watson, Esq, Sr. VP, of Legal Accountability & Compliance Services, NYCON.

In increasingly challenging fundraising times it is more important than ever for arts organizations to consider Entrepreneurial Ventures that can generate revenue. This type of endeavor takes calculated risk based on sound facts and adherence to rules and regulations around these types of activities for nonprofits. But entrepreneurial ventures have proven successful for many nonprofits. This full-day session can help you figure out if this type of activity is right for your organization.

This specialized training will address the interests and markets of arts organizations in exploring alternative revenue generating activities. This training course is a highly interactive immersion into the world of innovation and revenue generation. Participants will learn how to develop and practically apply "real world" elements of entrepreneurial ventures to their organization, including strategies on developing board understanding and support for such ventures. At the conclusion of the program, participants will have access to follow up support and information as they explore venture development.

Date: Thursday, June 25th, 2009
Time: 9am to 4:00pm (included lunch!)
Cost: FREE!
Location: NYCON NYC Regional Office
305 7th Avenue at 7th
11th Floor
NY, NY 10001

Register Here

Friday, April 24, 2009

Innovative Responses to the Current Funding Crisis in the Arts

The Center for Research, Regional Education and Outreach (CRREO) and the Samuel Dorsky Museum of Art (SDMA) at the State University of New York at New Paltz, along with the Dutchess Council for the Arts, will host a program for artists, arts organizations and interested residents throughout the region, titled “Innovative Responses to the Current Funding Crisis in the Arts” on Tuesday, April 28.

The program begins at 4 p.m. with a director’s tour of the Samuel Dorsky Museum of Art. At 5 p.m. in Lecture Center 102, Heather Hitchens, executive director of the New York State Council on the Arts, will speak about ways in which the council is addressing the state budget cuts and the future state of the arts in New York.

Following the keynote, Hitchens will moderate a panel discussion with the focus on the status of New York state arts funding and the innovative approaches that arts organizations and artists might use to maintain their programs and businesses. Panelists include:
• Carl Van Brunt, artist and director, Van Brunt Gallery
• Jeff Haynes, musician, founder and president of Komunyaka Music
• Lou Trapani, artistic and managing director, Center for Performing Arts at Rhinebeck
Meira Blaustein, cofounder and festival director, Woodstock Film Festival
• Carole Wolf, executive director, Mill Street Loft

Each panelist will be asked to talk about their own innovative responses to the current funding crisis. This will be followed by a problem-solving discussion guided by audience queries. The event is free and open to the public.

Contact: Kathleen Tobin Flusser, x2901, tobinflk@newpaltz.edu
Web Site: http://www.newpaltz.edu/crreo/events.html

Thursday, April 23, 2009

New York City Seeks to Become Volunteer Central by Making Volunteering Super Easy

This post is from Joanne's Nonprofits Blog by Joanne Fritz, About.com Guide to Nonprofits:

As part of celebrating National Volunteer Week, Mayor Michael Bloomberg has taken steps to make volunteering very easy for people in New York City, through NYC Service. The program's goals are to use volunteers to mitigate the impact of the current recession; to make it super easy to volunteer; and to make sure that young people in NYC learn about civic engagement and have the opportunity to serve.

Besides creating the comprehensive NYC Service website, where New Yorkers can search for programs that need their volunteer help, the program is breaking new ground with its innovative "Go Pass." Go Pass sets up a central clearinghouse for background checks. It will reduce the need for multiple nonprofits to pay for background checks on the same volunteer, and will reduce the time that volunteers must now spend going through individual background checks at several nonprofits.

Background checks are commonly required for volunteers who work with vulnerable populations such as children and the elderly. It is an obstacle that may deter some volunteers, and a bureaucratic bottleneck for nonprofits who are trying to funnel volunteers quickly to address immediate needs. The Go Pass is a great idea and a model for other communities.

As always, New York City strives to be the biggest, the best, the first. NYC Service is a great way to harness that energy.