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Largest EALS Ever Proves Success

Steven Dawson, EALS Executive Chair, reports on the 6th annual Emerging Arts Leaders Symposium and the growth the organization has seen. From article written for American University News.

Once again, the Emerging Arts Leaders Symposium at American University has proven to be a smashing success. The Symposium, known by the acronym EALS, is in its sixth year of existence. The event is an annual meeting of students and young professionals who work in the arts that is held at American University. As national partners with Americans for theealsoutside Arts, EALS is the official kick off for Arts Advocacy Day, and is held the day before.

It is an opportunity to engage in quality discussion about issues, unique or universal, that affect arts organizations with students, peers, and experienced leaders in the field. Past keynote speakers have included Rachel Goslins, Ben Cameron, Bob Lynch, and Adrian Ellis. All symposium activities and planning is organized and executed by a selected committee of American University Arts Management students.

The framework of EALS 2013 was “Looking to the Horizon.” Each speaker and panel discussed the new and innovative strategies and ideas coming down the road in each of the topics addressed that day. These topics included international arts management, marketing, audience engagement, career advancement, innovative organization models, and fundraising.

As the Executive Chair, I am elated to report that EALS 2013 was by far the largest and most successful Symposium ever. Counting the speakers, attendees, staff, and volunteers, 225 people walked through the doors on Sunday, April 7. That proved to be well over double last year’s number, a record growth for the Symposium. EALS also extended its reach throughout the country. Previous years saw attendees mostly from the surrounding DC metro area and within a few hours’ driving distance. EALS 2013, however, saw attendees from geographical locations spanning the entire eastern coast, the mid-west, and as far west as Utah.

What caused so many people from so many locales to flock to American University? The EALS Executive Committee’s focus on quality programming. At the beginning of the planning process, the Executive Committee made the decision to host big names from the industry that have valuable knowledge and experience to share. Doing so would be a financial gamble, but they had faith that presenting the highest quality programming would pay for itself by attracting more attendees. They were right.

The morning began with opening remarks and a welcome from myself, and jumped right in to the Opening Keynote Address by Karen Brooks Hopkins, the President of the Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM). Since taking over as president of BAM in 1999, Hopkins has led the organization with stunning competency, riding the waves of financial and philanthropic ups and downs. The annual attendance has exploded, the budget has over doubled, and the organization’s endowment has almost tripled to over $80 million. Her address connected the ideas we were discussing at EALS 2013 with her real and successful organization. A perfect start to the day.

The attendees then split off, as they went to the morning breakout panel session of their choice. One morning panel was International Arts Management. In this panel, Gail 151Humphries Mardirosian (American University), Todd Dellinger (Rider University), Stacy White (US Dept. of State), and Arts Management professor Ximena Varela discussed the newest research and issues in this growing area of the arts.

The other morning panel, Marketing for Today’s Organizations, saw leading marketing specialists discuss new strategies, as well as multiple points of view on some hot topic issues, such as subscription plans. Panelists included JoAnn LaBrecque-French (The Washington Ballet), Jennifer Buzzell (Strathmore), Khady Kamara (Arena Stage), and American University Museum head curator Jack Rasmussen.

After a networking lunch, the attendees split again into their choice of three panels. One afternoon panel, Audience Engagement, discussed the importance of engaging audiences…not selling to them…and the strategies to do so. Those panelists included engagement experts Margy Waller (Topos Partnership), JR Russ (Dance Place), Alli Houseworth (Method 121), Doug Borwick (ArtsEngaged), and AU’s Ximena Varela.

The second afternoon panel provided attendees the opportunity to pick the minds of 201younger arts leaders about starting and advancing their careers in the Career Beginnings and Advancement panel. Panelists included Jojo Ruf (National New Play Network), Christopher K. Morgan (Christopher K. Morgan & Artists), Allison Peck (Freer|Sackler Galleries, Smithsonian), and AU’s Anne L’Ecuyer.

The Innovative Organization Models panel rounded out the afternoon selections. Attendees had the opportunity to learn about some of the most cutting edge organizations, and to pick the minds of the leaders of these organizations. Those leaders were Rachel Grossman (dog&pony DC), Thaddeus Squire (Culture Works Greater Philadelphia), Margaret Boozer (Red Dirt Studio), and AU professor Andrew Taylor.

fr panelAfter a coffee break, attendees headed into the Abramson Family Recital hall to attend a panel that discussed one of the most important parts of arts management, yet one of the most uncomfortable parts: Fundraising. Panelists, moderated by Andrew Taylor, included leading minds in the field: Barbara Ciconte (Donor Strategies), Kendall Ladd (Sitar Arts Center), Pete Miller (Local arts board member and philanthropist), and Russell Willis Taylor (National Arts Strategies)

The day was concluded with Aaron Dworkin’s Closing Keynote Address. Dworkin is the founder and President of The Sphinx Organization, the leading organization focused on cultural diversity in the arts, and President Obama’s first ever appointee to the National Council for the Arts. His poignant dworkinand invigorating address discussed racial access to the fine arts, and how we as arts leaders must work to make the arts represent the true diversity that is the United States.

For more information on the Emerging Arts Leaders Symposium, and to hear audio recordings of the conference, visit http://www.american.edu/cas/arts-management/eals/index.cfm.

Below is the map of EALS 2013 attendee geographical locations. Where did you come from?

Attendee Geographical Locaitons
Attendee Geographical Locaitons

“But I hate asking for money….”

Regardless of the organizations mission, values, programs, etc., what is the ONE common factor that is needed to execute an organization’s purpose?Nervous Wreck

Money!

As much as we dislike connecting our important work to the dollar, the simple fact is that without it, we cannot pay our staffs, purchase materials, and pay the electric bills…and thus provide our services. So there we have it, we must have funds to fulfill our missions. However, unless you are the lucky few, earned income doesn’t even come close to covering your budget. So to take the statement even further; we must have CONTRIBUTED funds to fulfill our missions.

Now with the Sequestration set to go into effect, the NEA budget will be cut by 5%, or $7.3 million, and the grants will decrease. (But lets be honest, NEA funds have really just become a stamp of approval…and important stamp, that is…rather than actual difference-making funds) Foundations are changing the focus of how and what they fund. And corporate philanthropy, while rebounding, will not cover the balance. So, lets take that earlier statement even deeper. We must have INDIVIDUAL contributed funds to fulfill our missions. 

This can be a problem, though, because this all important aspect of non-profit management is most likely the most uncomfortable aspect of non-profit management. It is just human nature to avoid asking for money, even from people you know.

But proper cultivation, care for the mission, and honest inclusion in the organization (letters, tours, meetings, asking for advice, etc.) makes the potential donor WANT to give to the organization. This is all a team effort, though. It should include multiple levels of staff and board members. I won’t get into the role of the board in fundraising…..that is a whole other topic for another post. But I do encourage you to look up the 9 things a board can do in fundraising. Those include (courtesy of Sherburne Laughlin):

  • ID prospects
  • Write thank you notes
  • Write notes on annual appeals
  • Go on a site visit
  • Make an introduction
  • Make an ask
  • Give $$ themselves
  • Cultivate donors
  • Know enough about the organization to talk about it

This April 7, you have an amazing opportunity to discuss this all important topic with leaders in the field. The Fundraising and Development panel at the 6th annual Emerging Arts Leaders Symposium will provide the chance to ask your questions and pick their minds.

The Fundraising and Development panel will include:

russell willis taylor pic

Russell Willis Taylor – National Arts Strategies: Russell Willis Taylor, President and CEO of National Arts Strategies since January 2001, has extensive senior experience in strategic business planning, financial analysis and planning, and all areas of operational management. Educated in England and America, she served as director of development for the Chicago Museum of Contemporary Art before returning to England in 1984 at the invitation of the English National Opera (ENO) to establish the Company’s first fund-raising department.

Mrs. Taylor has held a wide range of managerial and Board posts in the commercial and nonprofit sectors. She received the Garrett Award for an outstanding contribution to the arts in Britain, the only American to be recognized in this way. In 2013, Russell was honored with the International Citation of Merit by the International Society for the Performing Arts, presented in recognition of her lifetime achievement and her distinguished service to the performing arts.

Barbara Ciconte – Donor Strategies, Inc.: For thirty years, Barbara L. Ciconte,ciconte place holder CFRE, has helped nonprofits think strategically and work smarter.  She has experience in all facets of nonprofit management and resource development. Barbara has worked with local, regional, and national organizations in strategic planning and assisted them in building more effective resource development programs in annual, capital and endowment giving, major gifts, planned giving, corporate and foundation relations, chapter/affiliate relations and special events.

Prior to becoming a consultant in 1999, she spent thirteen years at American University, where she served as the law school’s director of development and was responsible for managing the college’s successful $20 million capital campaign, which was part of the university’s $100 million Centennial Campaign. A leading national educator on fundraising and board development, Barbara is the co-author of Fundraising Basics: A Complete Guide, Third Edition 2009 published by Jones and Bartlett Learning.

Pete Miller pic Pete Miller – DC area arts donor: Pete became an enthusiastic playgoer after a high school class brought him to the Folger Library to see a production of Love’s Labours Lost. During his seven years in the Air Force, theater availability varied – pretty good in Austin, Texas, not so easy to find English language plays in Kaiserslautern, Germany, great DC theater available during his final tour at the Pentagon.  He continued to see a lot of DC theater while working for KPMG for four years, during which time he moved into the District.  He worked for AOL for eleven years, mostly in network operations, at the same time working his way up within Woolly Mammoth from volunteer usher to board member.  With his long time partner Sara, he co-chaired the Breaking New Ground capital campaign. Pete averages around 100 evenings of theater per year.  In addition to volunteering for Woolly, Pete also works on a volunteer and occasionally paid basis with a number of other DC area arts organizations.

Kendall Ladd – Sitar Arts Center:Ladd pic Kendall Ladd currently serves as the Donor Relations Manager at Sitar Arts Center and works on individual giving & stewardship, events, and grant programs. Sitar Arts Center provides needed arts education opportunities for disadvantaged children & youth in the District. In addition, Kendall has served as a consultant with the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities and the DC Arts and Humanities Education Collaborative. She holds an MA in Arts Management from American University and a BA in Studio Art from Columbia College.

Panel Moderator:

Andrew taylor

Andrew Taylor – American University: E. Andrew Taylor is an Assistant Professor in the Arts Management Program, exploring the intersection of arts, culture, and business. An author, lecturer, and researcher on a broad range of arts management issues, Andrew has also served as a consultant to arts organizations and cultural initiatives throughout the U.S. and Canada, including Overture Center for the Arts, American Ballet Theatre, Create Austin, and the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council, among others. Prior to joining the AU faculty, Andrew served as Director of the Bolz Center for Arts Administration in the Wisconsin School of Business for over a decade. Andrew is past president of the Association of Arts Administration Educators, and is a consulting editor both for The Journal of Arts Management, Law, and Society and for Artivate, a journal for arts entrepreneurship. Since July 2003, he has written a popular weblog on the business of arts and culture, “The Artful Manager,” hosted by ArtsJournal.com (www.artfulmanager.com).

Attend EALS 2013 on April 7, 2013 at American University for an entire day of panels and speakers like this one. Click HERE for more information, and register for the Symposium HERE.

Post-APAP NYC Reflection

45 dance companies in 4 days. After some reflection (and catching up on sleep) over the past couple days, I can, without a doubt, say that seeing so much dance in such a short period of time was most definitely the highlight of my APAP|NYC experience. For those who aren’t aware, APAP|NYC is the annual international conference for the Association of Performing Arts Presenters, a “national service and advocacy organization dedicated to developing and supporting a robust performing arts presenting field and the professionals who work within it.”

Slew of programs for the showcases I attended

I (Cathy Teixeira) attended the conference with some co-workers from American Dance Institute (ADI), a presenting organization just outside Washington, D.C. One of our main goals for this conference was to get a feel for what companies were out there, both nationally and internationally, see what they were creating, and of course to see if there were any potential companies ADI should look into presenting in the future. If it weren’t for the APAP conference, it would not have been possible to see so much in so short of a time span. I can’t begin to imagine how much work goes into organizing and coordinating showcases, not just for dance but for all disciplines, so I commend APAP for their fine work.

The showcases, usually running from 9:30am to as late as 10pm, took place in various venues across the city. Often times, the agents and/or choreographers would introduce the piece and indicate whether or not the companies were eligible for funding from NEFA’s National Dance Project (NDP). Working in development, I especially appreciated this key

Networking Opportunity-- Post-showcase reception for presenters and artists

piece of information. Presenting can get very expensive, and receiving a bit of support can make all the difference in whether or not an organization can afford to present certain companies. I also noticed that most choreographers would emphasize that fact that their work was flexible (in the number of dancers, staging, size, etc) and customizable based on the financial capacity of the presenter and the confines of the performance space. Again, another important factor when considering the possibility of presenting a company.

One lesson I learned: choreographers are pretty darn clever. Several of them had incorporated a community engagement component to their work. From a fundraising perspective this is wonderful because it makes raising money a lot easier when you are creating a unique experience for the audience/community that goes beyond just sitting in a theater. The most common way to do this is through master classes, post-show talks, or meet-the-artist receptions. But in David Dorfman Dance‘s newest work Come, and Back Again the music of Patti Smith is played by a five-piece band; a band that can tour with the company or alternatively, be comprised of local musicians in the presenter’s location. The music would be sent ahead of time, the company would come, they’d rehearse a couple times, and BAM! put on the show. Genius. I know this isn’t a novel idea, but David is creating opportunities for true community involvement by including this possibility in his work.

David, aside from being one of THE nicest people I’ve had the pleasure of meeting, has a knack for involving the audience and making his art truly accessible. ADI presented his wildly successful work Prophets of Funk back in November, and at the end of the show, the audience was invited to come dance with the company on stage. Check out the awesome moment below:

There were so many impressive dance companies, but this blog post would get out of hand if I tried to mention them all so here are just a couple of my personal* favorites:

Lar Lubovitch Dance Company– Lubovitch’s choreography was simply beautiful. I particularly enjoyed their setting of Histoire du Soldat, composed by Stravinsky. The

Lubovitch's Histoire du Soldat

narrative (a soldier sells his violin/soul to the devil and tries to win it back), music, and choreography worked together seamlessly resulting in a cohesive piece.

Keigwin + Company– Keigwin’s work is often described as “sexy” but it’s so much more than that; it’s clever and utterly captivating. In fact, I was so drawn in that I didn’t notice how badly my leg had fallen asleep. They’ll be at the Kennedy Center in March— even if you aren’t a dance person, they are a MUST SEE.

Brian Brooks Moving Company. Photo (c) Christopher Duggan

Brian Brooks Moving Company– The company performed an excerpt of DESCENT, described by the NY times as being “visually arresting”. And it was just that. In the duet, one dancer “manipulated” the other dancer’s falling weight, creating quite an impressive effect.

In addition to all the dance we saw, Jessica (the Development Director of ADI) and I scheduled three consultation meetings: a fundraising consultation with The North Group, Inc. and meetings with the NEA presenting and dance specialists. I didn’t know what to expect in these one-on-one meetings, but they proved to be informative and encouraging. For the fundraising consultation, Jessica gave the consultant a run-down of the current development situation, and then we were given ideas on where we should be prioritizing our efforts. As for the NEA meetings, the presenting and dance specialists were able to tell us what types of grants we were eligible/most appropriate to apply for, and which grant cycle would give us a greater competitive edge. It was great to meet the specialists in person, and to receive positive feedback on what was going on at ADI.

One of the sessions I attended was called What Jazz Can Teach Us About Winning Audiences, where Christy Farnbauch and Bob Breithaupt of Jazz Arts Group presented the results of Jazz Audience Initiatives, their ground-breaking study on jazz audiences. To be honest, I was a bit skeptical about the session being applicable to the dance field, but actually left with a lot of useful information and ideas. They found that 86% of ticket

Taken from the full JAI report.

buyers (ages 18-34) attend because of recommendations from friends and family. As they pointed out, this is intuitive information, but the research just further proves the importance of the initiators (those doing the inviting) in building an audience. It challenged me to consider how we can identify these initiators and what we can do to reward/provide incentives for them to ultimately become active advocates of an organization. For the full report, click here.

If you’ve been reading the wonderful blog posts from my classmate and fellow EALS committee member, Steven Dawson, you’ll find that our experiences at APAP were quite different. (In fact, we only ran into each other once the entire conference!) The great thing is that the APAP Conference is so comprehensive that there’s a rich experience for everyone: across all disciplines, presenter or exhibitor, student or executive. There is so much going on that you can mix and match sessions/meeting/showcases and tailor your schedule to fit your needs. Thank you APAP for a wonderful conference!

-Cathy Teixeira

___________________

This is a non-APAP related piece, but something that I thought was worth mentioning, especially for opera lovers. I had Monday night free, so on my bus ride up to New York, I

Obligatory tourist-y photo of Lincoln Center

decided to see if there were any operas at the Met that I could go see. It was a piece of cake to get $25 student tickets (for orchestra seats that are usually $95!) to their new production of Faust. And if you aren’t a student, you can go to the box office two hours before a show and get $20 rush tickets.

*Disclaimer: These are my own personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect the opinion of American Dance Institute.

Coo coo ca choo, Thank You

thank you letter non profitThank you. Ta. Merci. Danke. Grazie. No matter what language, we can all agree, thank yous are important.  Thank you for your donation, thank you for your attendance, thank you for your recommendation, thank you, thank you, thank you.

But HOW do we say thank you? Best practices tell us to be sure to send donors a Thank You letter within two weeks of receiving their donation. Some organizations are better at this than other. That logistic nightmare is another whole post. What I’m curious about is: what do your Thank You letters look like? How do they sound? How are they structured? (Read Kivi Leroux Miller’s Nonprofit Thank You Letters – 3 I Love)

Recently the organization I work for decided it was time to overhaul our Thank You letters and start from scratch. Personally, I was excited. I hated exporting, organizing and mail merging data into 18 different letter templates depending on the donation type, amount, and other minute restrictions. Plus I hated the letters themselves. Entirely left justified, “thanks for your recent contribution” snore, snore, boring. It was essentially a business like receipt, a Kivino-no“. So when 5 minutes of dead air indicated that no one else was willing to step up and write some new letters (oh the charm of conference calls), I took it as a sign from above I should step up to the plate. (Read About.com’s Thank You Letter Guide HERE – not half bad)

Armed with Mal Warwick’s How to Write Successful Fundraising Letters I prepared to blow my co-workers out of the water. Four hours, a pack of Twizzlers and 3 cans of mountain dew later I had my masterpieces: aesthetic interest, personalized voice, an invite to visit us online or via other social media resources, and essential IRS information, it was all there. I would’ve been happy to receive such a letter as thanks for my donation.

I happily saved my collection of templates in Dropbox and sent off the link. I waited, excited and nervous, to receive what I expected to be responses of joy and praise. I envisioned something along the lines of “WHY DIDN’T WE THINK OF THIS. You’ve changed our lives. We want to give you a raise.”

As I’m sure my story has lead you to expect, no such praise came. The long and short of it is that after quite a few “I don’t like…” “Why does it do this…” back and forth our new thank you templates look almost EXACTLY the same as our old ones. Yetch. However despite my disappointment I’m willing to admit that the letter I wrote may not have been appropriate at this time for the organization at which I work. One day, perhaps, our letters will reflect the warmth of our staff and excitement of our mission. But for now, they letters we have get it done.

What kind of thank yous does your organization send? Who signs them? How do you structure them? Leave links to your favorite thank yous as well as any feed back or suggestions on best way you’ve been thanked for your charitable donations in the comments!

And because it’s a great song and the title is Thank You enjoy some Led Zep below:

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