In the Moment: Bloomberg Philanthropies investing in DC’s non-profit cultural institutions

When we think of non-profit arts and cultural institutions, do we only think of the creative side of the organization, the parts we see and interact with or immerse ourselves in? What about the often hidden business administration aspects of these same cultural institutions, those features that help make possible and sustain an institution as a community gemstone?

As the federal city, Washington, DC is loaded with big cultural institutions that have been in place and thriving for decades. But what of the District’s robust assortment of mid-size and smaller arts and cultural institutions that serve or more fully focus upon DC area residents themselves? Who is looking out for them especially in business development matters and strengthening of their long-term health so they continue to provide cultural benefits to the local community?

Recently, a key new champion arrived on the DC scene to assist mid-size and smaller arts organizations. On May 10, Bloomberg Philanthropies announced that it will be investing in Washington, DC mid-size and smaller non-profit cultural organizations. The investment is part of $43 million that aims to assist more than 200 small and midsize cultural organizations in seven cities across America from Washington to Atlanta, Austin, Baltimore, Denver, New Orleans, and Pittsburgh.

The Bloomberg funding is an expansion of the unique, current Arts Innovation and Management program. The invitation-only Arts Innovation and Management (AIM) program will focus on what can be called the business functions of cultural organizations. Through the multi-year AIM initiative, Bloomberg Philanthropies will provide general operating support and arts management training in areas that include fundraising, strategic planning, marketing, and board development.

“We wanted to reach cities that we thought had a really strong mix in the way they were serving up arts and culture,” said Kate Levin, who oversees arts programs at Bloomberg Philanthropies. The AIM program has already provided $65 million to about 500 organizations across theater, visual arts, music, film, literature, and dance in New York, Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Detroit, Los Angeles, and San Francisco. This new round of funding increases Bloomberg Philanthropies’ support for this initiative to $108 million since 2011.

In a recent interview, Levin noted that helping small and midsize arts groups is key to supporting the creative health of cities and citizens while providing critical benefits to cultural organizations’ long-term well-being.

Under AIM, Bloomberg Philanthropies will develop curricula and conduct seminars for the program in partnership with leading experts, such as the DeVos Institute of Arts Management at the University of Maryland, under the leadership of Michael Kaiser. “The Arts Innovation and Management program is unique because of its focus on entire cities,” said Kaiser.

DC cultural organizations invited to participate in the 2018 expansion of the AIM program are nonprofits that have been in existence for at least two years. The invited applicants are a robust, diverse cohort of arts disciplines located throughout Washington, DC, indicated Levin.

Performers from the Jazz Institute of Chicago, a prior participant in the AIM program. Photo courtesy of Bloomberg.

Invitation letters were distributed to 46 selected DC organizations on May 10, 2018. The invited applicants have budgets between $150,000 and $3.5 million. The AIM program focuses on non-profits with budgets of those amounts since they tend to have similar management structures and business aspects, added Levin.

Grantees will be required to secure 20% in matching funds; reach 100% board participation in fundraising; and maintain up-to-date information in DataArts, an online management tool that assists arts organizations across the country in collecting, learning from, and using data effectively. The grants will be unrestricted to allow recipients to utilize the funds to address their greatest needs

Only nonprofit cultural organizations that received an invitation from Bloomberg Philanthropies are eligible to apply for AIM. The invited organizations have until June 20, 2018, to submit their application. Grantees will be notified by Bloomberg on August 15, 2018. Once grantees have been selected and notified the organizations will be made public.

DC Theater Arts will continue to follow this important multi-year story


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