Feedback from You (yes, you): 9 Words That Describe the Nonprofit Arts Issues That Are Placing You at the End of Your Rope
This blog, as most are, is pretty much one-way. I share experiences, advice, consultation, and observations; you read ’em. I can discuss 1,000 issues that affect nonprofit arts organizations.
But that’s me.
What keeps you up at night?
What concrete issue (not just “there’s no funding for…”) is fraying your rope? Or better, what issues are figuratively tying a noose around the end of your rope?
Here’s your assignment. In 9 words (no more, no less), write that issue and send it to firstname.lastname@example.org. That’s it. Beginning in August, we’ll periodically take each issue and I’ll give my take. Then we’ll open up the discussion to everyone who reads 137 Words. Let me know if you’d like your name in or if you’d like to be anonymous. And if you’d like my help privately, let me know that, too.
Special 2016 “Alan Harrison’s Birthday” Edition: Pack Up the Babies and Grab the Old Ladies – And an Easy-To-Fulfill Wish List
I was born on May 14. Conceived on a hot August night. Neil Diamond would’ve been proud. He was old enough to have a kid then, so…who knows? Brother Love? Are you my papa?
From him, I want flowers.
From you, I want (this is your cue):
- A 137-word card. ( <–Yes, that’s a link.)
- Share your favorite 137 Words post with your social network (that’s “share,” not “like”).
- To join a great company with a great mission. In Seattle.
- Health for The Kid.
- Guidance for The Kid.
- The love of my life to be happy, fulfilled, and curious. You know who you are.
- The ability for you to guide your favorite nonprofit to safety, security, and success.
- Brilliantly measurable missions, better than you believe you’re capable of.
- Complete, successful execution of those brilliant new missions.
- Pie, not cake.
What’s the biggest societal issue in your personal world?
Americans in April named their list. What’s yours?
Economy, racial injustice, government dissatisfaction, immigration, terrorism. Unsolvable as big issues. Possibly solvable as small ones.
Hunger in your neighborhood? Support the food bank. Find ways for it to thrive so that many can survive without resorting to lawlessness.
Specific racial and income injustice in your town? Support the agencies that convene and expose the problems to the light. Find ways to gather people together who might never otherwise come together – and de-mythologize the stereotypes of the bad [ethnics – fill in your own blank] or the bad [other ethnics] or the bad [government officials], etc.
And do it using your art as a tool.
You now have step A and step Z. Just fill in steps B through Y.
From ArtsFund, Seattle:
“Together the activity of nonprofit arts organizations [in our region]…generates close to $2 billion in the Central Puget Sound’s economy creating 32,520 jobs, $882 million in labor income and $83 million in taxes.”
From Viking Stadium (new NFL stadium), Minneapolis:
“Construction will support approximately 13,000 jobs…almost $300 million in wages…upon completion, 3,400 full and part-time jobs…the economic activity from a new stadium will generate over $26 million per year in tax revenue and over $145 million in direct spending by Vikings fans inside the State of Minnesota.”
“McDonald’s provides tax revenue for local, state and national governments…$1.3 billion in United States national and state corporate taxes in 2011…McDonald’s spends hundreds of millions upgrading or building new locations.”
Let’s move on to quantifying our outcomes before we bury ourselves with more “economic impact” studies. It’s just not a winning argument for the arts.
Sadly, few people know “Profiles in Courage.” Ask around.
Among performing arts charities, some leaders shrewdly keep their positions because they fear appearing impolitic. They seek sustainability for themselves first, and then, secondarily, their organizations.
To them I implore:
- Pay performers wages, on the books, legal standard or better, for every hour they spend: rehearsals, performances, fittings, etc.
- If your charity isn’t making a substantial difference, merge or close. If it is, share your secrets.
- It’s about social progress, not black ink. Both are preferable, but you’ve failed if your best work is 30 years of balanced budgets.
- Take a stand. Don’t buy trouble, of course, but don’t become invisible to save your own skin.
- Theatres: plays aren’t written, they’re wrought. It’s about the production and the viewpoint, not the script and sets.
- Do something. Don’t be something.
I just read an article in the Chicago Tribune about actors receiving no payment for some performances. I’m not sure why it was written, except as acknowledgment that, well, actors receive no payment for some performances. Even for hit shows.
But why? “We can either pay you guys and not do a show — or not pay you and do a show,” said one producer in the article.
Here’s the thing: there are lots of performers. The competition forces them to undervalue themselves.
But that doesn’t mean that it’s ethical not to pay them. At least minimum wage. For rehearsal and performance time.
If that producer decides not to make money on a project, that’s his prerogative. But no pay to performers is abusive, unless he’s offering 40 acres and a mule after the run of the show.
Oh, those shoddy, “industry standard” hiring practices. They’re still here.
1) Communicate quickly, at least twice.
- We got your resume.
- Thanks for your interest, but you are not being considered (within a week of close).
2) When you’ve interviewed someone, call them (no email) within a week.
- Thanks for your interest, but you are no longer being considered.
- We’re still interviewing people. I’ll call you on [date range].
3) When you’ve interviewed someone more than once and have hired someone else, call them (no email) immediately.
- Thanks for your interest, but we’ve chosen someone else.
- …send communications stating who you’ve hired (salt, meet wound)
- …let them know they were in the final cut (see above)
- …say you’ll be in touch and then disappear.
- …be rude.
- …assume job-seekers are psychics.
What I want:
An arts charity that makes my community better.
Value to the community:
Safety. Knowledge. Personal Power. Issue solutions.
Provocation. Entertainment. Populism. Progressiveness. Mischief.
Educational residencies in both art and topic.
Every other charity, educational institution, or NGO with similar values.
50-50 split on revenues with partners. Partners open their mailing lists to help themselves financially through ticket sales.
The measured outcomes of the partners. Quantity of classes, students, and schools participating.
Populist results defeat the arts’ elitist reputation. The needs of the charities are filled.
Enough so that all artists receive at least $15/hour (in 2014 dollars) and no full-time hourly rate is more than 4x anyone else’s.
Arts moves people to action. Thorny issues seen can never be unseen. Life is better.
On July 24, 2009, the national minimum wage was $7.25/hour.
A year has a capacity for 2,080 hours (40 hours x 52 weeks). 2,080 hours provides an annual gross income of $15,080 (if the employer pays for holidays, sick days, insurance, parking, etc.). Income tax lowers the figure down to $12,516.
The 2009 official poverty line for the US (family of four) was $22,050.
4½ years later, minimum wage is still $12,516/year.
If the minimum wage were doubled for businesses with 50+ employees, the gross annual minimum wage would be $30,160. After federal tax, those employees would take home $25,033. 2013’s official four-person-family poverty line is estimated to be $25,000.
Sounds about right. Unless the economy is built on maintaining a working poor. If that’s the case, we should reduce the minimum wage and build workhouses.