Info You Can Use: If You Missed Your Chance To Steal It Before

While Oscar Wilde may have said, “Good writers borrow, great writers steal,” and blogging by its nature does involve citing others quite a bit, I generally try to avoid having my blog entries involve someone else’s work entirely.

However, occasionally someone provides information that can prove so valuable, it pretty much bears repeating entirely. Last month Thomas Cott assembled a series of links in his daily email which he titled, Steal This Idea.

Many of those he linked to posted entries urging people to steal their ideas, including Trisha Mead on 2AMt , the Association of College Unions International’s Steal This Idea contest and the Please Steal This Idea blog.

After reading this series of articles, you could almost forget that companies are actually concerned about preserving their Intellectual Property rights.

There are a lot of great ideas for the arts in these links. I must confess however that one which resonated very closely with me was an article from the Library Journal (also titled Steal This Idea) which talked about how the Hartford Public Library solicited ideas from their patrons and created a series of library cards people could pick and choose from.

This is a great idea for cultivating a sense of ownership among arts patrons and subscribers. However, the reason it resonated so closely with me is because I actually have kept every library card I have owned since I was a kid. And since I have moved around a fair bit in my career, my collection is between 10-15. Had those libraries offered a choice of more personalized cards, I would have probably “lost” my card frequently so I could add to my collection.

One interesting idea that Cott hadn’t included was covered by Sarah Lutman of the Speaker blog. She discussed the Great River Shakespeare Festival’s (GRSF) decision to sell 10 year bonds to fund their organization. The board of directors authorized the sale of 100 bonds at $5000 each. As of a month ago, they had sold 39.

Though there is some hope that at the end of the 10 year period, people will roll over or donate the proceeds of the bond to the organization rather than calling it due, GRSF is prepared to pay 4% annually on the bond. And they may choose to repay the bond at the end of the term rather than having it roll over. Ownership of the bond can be transferred.

The legal and filing fees for Minnesota were under $2000. It may be more in your state. It is an interesting idea to get people literally invested in your organization. There is some precedent for this sort of thing. The Green Bay Packers football team is a non-profit corporation and has famously offered stock to support their operations.

Fans grab shares when they are made available mostly for the pride of claiming ownership because the team doesn’t pay dividends. How much better is it then to be able to proudly invest in your favorite arts organization and actually be promised a financial return on top of whatever benefit the organization has to the community.

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 ( 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. (

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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