So Friday, November 18, 2011 I had the privilege to attend the AU Arts management fall colloquium featuring Director of Special Programming at Kennedy Center, Robert Pullen. His topic was profit (commercial theatre) versus not-for-profit theatres. Although I do not come from a theatre background I found the lecture very informative and interesting. Ultimately the difference between for profit and not-for-profit is that a for-profits main goal is to make money while not-for-profits aim to fulfill their mission. Although both types of organizations can produce high quality art the bottom line for for-profit organizations is to make money.
Robert Pullen’s lecture on Friday made me think about why it is important to work for not-for-profit organizations. While some non-profit organizations such as Arena Stage have business models that are starting resemble those of for-profit organizations, their main focus still is, or should be the mission of the organization. It is the mission of non-profit arts organizations that drives me to want to work for one someday. It is important to have organizations whose main goal is to create quality art that is accessible to their community. It is my opinion that the arts enhance our lives and should be available to everyone. Non-profit organizations make this possible. Robert Pullen stated in his lecture that although non-profits are focused on the mission they can learn something from for-profit organizations. Just because an organization is not-for-profit it does not mean they have to loose money. Non-profit organizations can look at successful for-profit art organizations’ business strategies and learn from them. One thing in particular Robert Pullen said non-profits can learn is how to better negotiate. On Broadway everything is a negotiable while many non-profit organization are afraid to or don’t bother to negotiate.
Because as arts managers and future arts managers we care so much about the work we are doing it is important to make sure we are doing our job to the best of our ability. That means looking at non-profit organizations as well for-profit organizations as an example. With the Emerging Arts Leaders Symposium and Arts Advocacy day coming in the spring we can continue to learn the skills needed to become great arts managers and activist.