Best Practices


There is a concept that has become extremely popular in management circles over the last decade or so: best practices. By that people mean the set of structures or programs that are most effective in achieving a particular desired end. Generally, these will be approaches that have resulted in success in numerous different situations in a number of different places. It is a popular concept because it prevents people from having to "reinvent the … [Read more...]

Public Charity


Wonkiness Alert This post is only (or mostly) for those interested in nonprofit minutiae. There are two basic types of 501(c)(3) organizations: public charities and private foundations. Private foundations are limited in the deductions available to contributors, are subject to excise taxes, and have a different and more complicated Form 990 (990PF) to fill out. (In addition, they are required to distribute a minimum percentage of their assets … [Read more...]

Lessons from a Grocery Chain


It's amazing where one can find inspiration. In May NPR did a feature on a Southwest Philadelphia grocery store that I immediately tweeted. Then as I read it in more detail I discovered I simply had to write about it. The story concerns opening a grocery store in what was considered to be a "food desert"–an urban area that ostensibly will not support a traditional grocery store with fresh produce and associated "middle class" staples. When Jeff … [Read more...]

AftA Thoughts 2015: The Arts and . . .


This is the final installment in a series of posts reflecting on last June's Americans for the Arts convention in Chicago. (But don’t get too hopeful, there are several other impressions from the event percolating that I won’t label with this group.) A focus of Americans for the Arts over the next several years is going to be pairing of the arts with other disciplines. Conversations and work around the arts and medicine, the arts and … [Read more...]

AftA Thoughts 2015: Staff Diversity


This is the fourth in a series of posts reflecting on last June's Americans for the Arts convention in Chicago. Diversity and equity were large themes that I’ve addressed twice already. Last time (Self-Perpetuating Boards) I commented on issues of governance. This time, staff diversity is the topic. A highlight of the convention for me was Tom Finkelpearl’s (Commissioner of NYC's Department of Cultural Affairs) comment that despite low salaries … [Read more...]

AftA Thoughts 2015: Self-Perpetuating Boards


This is the third in a series of posts reflecting on last June's Americans for the Arts convention in Chicago. In the context of serious discussions of equity and diversity, it was inevitable that my thoughts would turn to boards of directors and trustees. I’ve written several times recently about the conundrum that “fundraising boards” represent in the nonprofit arts world. (Give or Get, Can’t Buy Me Love) Specifically in discussions of … [Read more...]

AftA Thoughts 2015: Bait and Switch


As I said in my last post, in June I attended Americans for the Arts convention in Chicago. As part of my annual reflections on that experience, I wanted to comment on something that's been on my mind for years. In plenary sessions videos and performers were featured that demonstrated the power of the arts to transform lives and make communities better places to live. Stories like those are what originally brought me to this work and continue to … [Read more...]

AftA Thoughts 2015: Equity Watershed?


Last month I attended Americans for the Arts' convention in Chicago. It was a great event in a great city. As usual, it sparked a number of thoughts about the present and future of the arts and, as has become my habit, I intend to reflect on the experience in a series of posts here. This post considers the conference's remarkable focus on diversity and equity. The number of sessions and the amount of conversation addressing these issues appeared … [Read more...]

“Of” the Community

Carolina Blues Festival 2015

In May I had occasion to attend two music festivals of very different kinds. One was a country music event titled HoustonFest held in Galax, VA. The other was Greensboro, NC's 29th Annual Carolina Blues Festival. I went to the former largely for family reasons. The blues festival was one I've been wanting to take in for a long time. The back-to-back juxtaposition of two such focused celebrations inevitably led to a number of comparisons and an … [Read more...]