One sign of a maturing technology

Wired has an article on the changing patterns of Internet use. One of the key changes? Less sex searching: ''Twenty percent of all searching was sex-related back in 1997; now it's about 5 percent,'' said Amanda Spink, the University of Pittsburgh professor who co-authored Web Search: Public Searching of the Web with Penn State professor Bernard J. Jansen. ''It's a little bit more in Europe, 8 to 10 percent, but in comparison to everything else, it's a very small percent,'' Spink said. ''People are using (the web) more as an everyday tool … [Read more...]

Oozing back up

The Chronicle of Philanthropy notes a slightly happier fundraising machine in the nation's largest charitable organizations. Overall donations in their 'top 400' are up 2.3 percent. It's nothing like the glory days of the past decade, when annual increases in giving hit the double digits. But it's something. As with all development news, this aggregate increase is tempered by the shaky environment still to come: As charities head into the two busiest fund-raising months of the year, with the holidays and the end of the tax year motivating many … [Read more...]

On-line goodies

Just a few quick pointers today to sites of particular interest: Google has a grant program now for nonprofits who want to use their AdWords service at no cost for three months. AdWords is an exceptionally useful tool that allows you to set up keyword 'campaigns' within the Google search engine. When Google visitors type in your phrase as a search, your small ad appears on the right side of the results screen. The toolset is quite sophisticated and nuanced, allowing constant tracking of click-throughs and even action tracking (you can see if … [Read more...]

Overbuilt: The Sequel

There was a healthy spike in readership and comment related to my recent post about how the nonprofit arts might be 'overbuilt'. Interestingly, many comments agreed with the general feeling of an overbuilt and overstretched industry, but quickly focused on the individual organization's size and scope: I have to agree that we are overbuilt, but on a micro level as organizations. I've always called it the Bigger Better Mentality. And though I hate it, it's always my job for a board - ''make us bigger and better.'' In a similar vein, another … [Read more...]

Catching a clue from The Cluetrain Manifesto

Cluetrain Manifesto

Back in April 1999 (eons ago by weblog standards, I know), a list of 95 theorems written by three techno-leaders caused quite a stir. The Cluetrain Manifesto was an attempt to define the new model for business-consumer interaction, given the invasive, conversational style of the Internet. In the forward to the inevitable book based on the manifesto (available for free on-line), The Wall Street Journal's Thomas Petzinger, Jr., described his first reaction to the work: I was dumbstruck. There, in a few pages, I read a startlingly concise … [Read more...]

Learning about art and audience from designers

Commercial and industrial design is a fascinating subset of creative endeavor, raising all sorts of relevant issues to the arts and cultural manager. Designers develop complex aesthetic and functional responses to real-world problems, often seeking to engage an audience in their solutions (design is what makes you want a VW Bug over a Honda Civic, or an iPod over another MP3 player). On-line design magazines like Core 77 offer a great window on the conflicts and solutions of the design world. Like this essay on emotion versus intelligence, … [Read more...]

Returns on investment

'Valuing culture' can be an abstract exercise, full of theory and pontification about instrumental and intrinsic worth. But the topic is getting a real-world workout in Colorado, where Denver's sales-tax-supported Scientific and Cultural Facilities District is coming up for renewal. Does a public investment in culture return public benefits from the taxpayers' perspective? In this case, the taxpayers themselves will decide through a public referendum to renew and extend the initiative. The Rocky Mountain News has one perspective on the 'returns … [Read more...]

Corporate myopia

I've been blabbing a lot about the ecology of arts and cultural activity in communities -- whether it's overbuilt or imbalanced, how we can juggle established nonprofits and small, often unincorporated, initiatives. There's good stuff on this perspective from an older report by the Center for and Urban Future. Author Mark Stern celebrates the transformative power of small, community-based arts organizations in the mix...and raises concerns about the on-going efforts of funders, board members, and others to make them grow. Says Stern: When … [Read more...]

Some Friday diversions and fluff

Are you jealous of corporate America that seems to have all the good business-speak? Are you longing to take a break from the earnest board and staff meetings focusing on mission, vision, and the new cookbook fundraiser project? Are you looking for new lingo to pad your latest grant application? Then go ye forth to these sites, and let the jargon begin: Bullshit Bingo Web Economy Bullshit Generator The automatic complaint-letter generator Education Jargon Generator Sometimes, life is too short for a long weblog post! … [Read more...]


There was a strange consensus among the many arts professionals and keynote speakers at my recent alumni/student conference in Madison. The consensus surrounded this point: the nonprofit arts industry is overbuilt. Speakers pointed to the massive growth in the nonprofit arts over the past 30 years...due in part perhaps to the leveraging power of matching grants. They pointed to the general contraction in most revenue streams and economic indicators over the past five to ten years. They pointed to symptoms of thin capitalization and … [Read more...]