Volunteering Up, Donations Spread Around

Been busy, busy, busy these last couple weeks but I wanted to do a quick entry on something I came across in the Chronicle of Philanthropy.

According to a recent study by the federal agency, Corporation for National and Community Service, the post 9/11 world has seen an increase in volunteerism. If your organization needs volunteers and hasn’t made a wide appeal lately, it might be a good environment in which to do so.

The bad news in the study is that people are less trusting of donation appeals than they were before September 2001. It’s not clear from the story if this perception colors how people see arts organizations. Since the article specifically mentions a Red Cross scandal and points to friction of the use of money for human service causes, the negative view may fall predominantly upon that sector.

The situation that can be more clearly identified as a problem for arts fundraising is that so many more chartiable causes exist now than did before. Not only are there now appeals for the families of people killed on 9/11, but also for those dispossessed by Hurricanes Rita and Katrina and the Southeast Asian tsunamis. Charities are trying to do much more to help specific groups these days and are even trying to start programs to proactively prevent disasters and attacks from occuring again.

As I have mentioned in other entries, it is always a little difficult for arts organizations to make a case for funding when the choice is between them and succour for the suffering. Cathartic experiences have been a cornerstone of the arts since the Greeks so should be funded alongside the aid and relief programs.

I had a woman come take a tour of our backstage in the last month or so who runs a theatre in the New Orleans area. She has taken a big hit funding wise but is running her season as best she can because people keep calling and saying they don’t care what the show is about as long as it is funny. Her place is just as important to the rebuilding of people’s spirits as any other funded restoration that is occuring in her region.

About Joe Patti

I have been writing Butts in the Seats (BitS) on topics of arts and cultural administration since 2004 (yikes!). Given the ever evolving concerns facing the sector, I have yet to exhaust the available subject matter. In addition to BitS, I am a founding contributor to the ArtsHacker (artshacker.com) website where I focus on topics related to boards, law, governance, policy and practice.

I am also an evangelist for the effort to Build Public Will For Arts and Culture being helmed by Arts Midwest and the Metropolitan Group. (http://www.creatingconnection.org/about/)

My most recent role was as Executive Director of the Grand Opera House in Macon, GA.

Among the things I am most proud are having produced an opera in the Hawaiian language and a dance drama about Hawaii's snow goddess Poli'ahu while working as a Theater Manager in Hawaii. Though there are many more highlights than there is space here to list.


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