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,
Web Site:

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, 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.

Nonprofits Seek Increased Support for Advocacy; Concerns Over Offending Donor Base and Board Members Also Barriers

Supporting a cause is central to the mission of most nonprofit organizations in the United States, but a lack of resources often forces lobbying and advocacy to the back burner, according to a roundtable of leaders and experts gathered by the Johns Hopkins University Nonprofit Listening Post Project.

Besides having limited funds and small staffs to devote to lobbying, nonprofit leaders also worry that taking strong stances on the issues will offend their donors and board members.

"Nonprofits are supposed to be the agents of democracy and give voice to the powerless," noted Lester M. Salamon, director of the Center for Civil Society Studies at the Johns Hopkins Institute for Policy Studies. "But their ability to do this is hampered by limited funding."

The roundtable brought together experts in nonprofit advocacy and practitioners representing both service organizations and intermediary organizations. Participants explored nonprofit involvement in the policy process and identified steps that might be taken to boost the scope, scale, and effectiveness of policy advocacy.

Issues raised by roundtable participants included:
  • A lack of funding for nonprofit advocacy and lobbying efforts.
  • Concerns among nonprofits that policy advocacy efforts would be frowned upon by their local community, offend their donor base, or encounter board disapproval.
  • The need to strengthen and underwrite the activities of advocacy coalitions and intermediary groups, which are increasingly important in nonprofit advocacy efforts.
  • Concerns that while nonprofits can be somewhat effective in "playing defense" by responding to a proposed policy or legislative cut, they often lack the resources or sophistication needed to develop new policy proposals.

Participants also identified steps that might be taken to boost nonprofit policy advocacy including:

  • Taking a more strategic and inventive approach to advocacy by encouraging board members to tap into their own social networks or by bringing the people organizations serve directly into lobbying efforts to build greater credibility.
  • Integrate advocacy into all aspects of an organization by including it in mission statements, strategic plans, staff job descriptions, board job descriptions and budgets.
  • Encourage foundations to support nonprofit policy advocacy and invest in local, state, and national nonprofit advocacy coalitions and intermediary organizations.
  • Learn to act strategically and build long-term positive relationships between nonprofits and government officials.
  • Rely on a wide range of tools, not just e-mail but also blogs and social networking sites such as Facebook.
  • Educate legislators and the public about the nonprofit sector's critical role in public service and advocacy in order to build recognition of the value of engaging nonprofit organizations in the policy arena.
A survey conducted by the Listening Post Project in 2007 found that:
85 percent of responding organizations spent less than 2 percent of their budget on advocacy or lobbying.
  • Nearly three-fourths of all responding organizations reported undertaking some form of advocacy or lobbying, such as signing correspondence to a public official. However, when it came to more involved forms of participation, such as testifying at hearings or organizing a public event, the proportions reporting any involvement fell to about a third.
  • The vast majority (90 percent) of surveyed organizations agreed that "nonprofits have a duty to advocate for policies important to their missions;" a comparable proportion also agreed that organizations like their own should be "more active and involved."
The full text of a report summarizing findings that emerged from the "Roundtable on Nonprofit Advocacy and Lobbying" is available at .

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Special FREE Webinars about aspects of the Federal StimulusPackage

This communication shares information about the following webinars in a special series being offered this week and next by the United Way of America and the National Community Tax Coalition. Participation is free, BUT you must register in advance. Here is the relevant information for each session.

Workforce Investment Act (WIA)
Date: Tuesday, April 21, 2009
Time: 10 AM (Pacific), 11 AM (Mountain), 12 PM (Central), 1PM (Eastern)
Length: 60 minutes
Format: Web Seminar/Audio Conference
Cost: FREE
Capacity: Unlimited

This web seminar will focus on the funding allocations and program implementation of the workforce development provisions of P.L.111-5, including the Workforce Investment Act (WIA), Title I-B Grants to States, Job Corps, YouthBuild, and others. Rachel Gragg, Federal Policy Director for The Workforce Alliance will present.
Register for ARRA: Workforce Investment Act

Affordable Housing
Date: Wednesday, April 23, 2009
Time: 1 PM (Pacific), 2 PM (Mountain), 3 PM (Central), 4 PM (Eastern)
Length: 60 minutes
Format: Web Seminar/Audio Conference
Cost: FREE
Capacity: Unlimited

The final web seminar in the series will focus on the funding allocations and program implementation of the affordable housing provisions of P.L.111-5. Danna Fischer, Legislative Director and Counsel for the National Low Income Housing Coalition, and one of the nation's foremost affordable housing advocates will present.
Register for ARRA: Affordable Housing

We hope this timely information is helpful to you and your organization.
Doug Sauer, CEO
New York Council of Nonprofits, Inc.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

NYC To Provide Loans, Benefits To Struggling Nonprofits

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg has announced new initiatives to help the city's 40,000 cultural, health and social service nonprofit organizations survive the economic crisis.

"Almost half a million New Yorkers who make up our nonprofit workforce contribute profoundly to the heartbeat of our city by helping residents across the five boroughs - particularly during these trying times," said Mayor Bloomberg. "Whether by training people for jobs, providing access to arts and culture or building affordable housing, the nonprofit sector is a vital part of the City and our economy. As nonprofits face increasing challenges due to the economic downturn, it's critical that the City take concrete steps to strengthen the sector and help it thrive."

The new program will allow the City to reduce nonprofit organizations' fixed costs, expand loan programs, enhance the responsiveness and efficiency of City contracting procedures to speed payments, and build new partnerships to help foster stronger nonprofits.

The program would enable organizations to save money by group purchasing insurance, information technology and other goods and services. A city-run loan program for nonprofits will be expanded to $20 million from its current $8 million, Bloomberg said. Nonprofits employ more than 490,000 people, more than 15 percent of the city's non-government workforce, the mayor said.

City officials intend to offer nonprofits energy audits so they can reduce the costs of heating, cooling and lighting their offices, and streamlined contracting rules to make it easier for them to do business with the city, the mayor said. To read the complete release from the Mayor's office, click here.

Monday, April 6, 2009

The New York Council of Nonprofits wishes to extend its sincerest sympathies to the victims and families of the recent tragedy in Binghamton, NY. We commend the Binghamton nonprofit community for their immediate and compassionate response to this event. To learn more about the nonprofit and community response in Binghamton and how you can help, please click here.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Nonprofit Theaters Say Next Season May Be Their Toughest Yet

The NY Times featured an article pointing out that next year will be even more challenging for nonprofit theaters. One has to wonder if the article is highlighting an issue that will apply to all nonprofits?

Fancy gift bags and elaborate centerpieces were out of the question for Signature Theater Company’s spring gala on Monday night at Espace, a reception room on West 42nd Street in Manhattan.

This nonprofit theater, which has one of the most consistent track records of critically acclaimed productions in New York, had already reduced its fund-raising target by 10 percent. With salary freezes a possibility and other belt-tightening under way, Signature and its nonprofit theater brethren in New York have entered an especially difficult economic period in their history, with the 2009-10 season looming as the toughest financial challenge they have faced, executives say. Read the article here.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Arts Update

NYS Arts offered the following update on the NYS budget. The proposed budget was $38.9 million and the Legislature added 3.5 million for a total of $42.650 million for grants to the field. $42.650 million represents an 8.79% cut from the beginning of FY 2008-09. NYS Arts also mentions that the total State budget is $131 Billion, and further cuts may result as NY faces a growing deficit (possibly $16 to 17 billion).