Teach me how to fund art organization!
June 17, 2008 3:05 PM   Subscribe

I have an idea for a community art organization. Help me figure out where to look to fund it!

For a year or two I've been toying with the idea of building a community printmaking center in the future. Basically a small center where people could pay a small fee to join as members and do relief or screenprinting, and perhaps work in some community lessons for people if there was interest. I'm currently not living where I'd want to host it (would probably go for Portland, OR, but I'm in AZ) so I know this would be a long project in the making, but I'd like to start learning about how feasible this thing is. I'm not rich so I can't really finance it myself, but I was thinking that perhaps I could find a way to fund it via grants or other government funding.

So basically I just want to know, where should I start researching this? I am completely in the dark about how to raise money or get a project like this underway. Are there good books or websites on the topic? Would this count as a non-profit? An arts organization? What little I've found so far in regards to organization funding seems to go towards pre-existing ones. Any legalities I should be aware of?

If it's vague, just let me know and I'll try to add details. This is a goal that I really would love to make happen in my future, so any suggestions/ideas no matter how offbeat will be great! Thanks so much!
posted by actionpact to Work & Money (7 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Ha, I forgot the AN in the title. I'm not a caveman, I swear.
posted by actionpact at 3:06 PM on June 17, 2008

Would your project differ substantially from the IPRC? Because (especially since you mention doing it in Portland!) you might just want to work with them.

If it's different in some way I'm not understanding, they could probably still give you good advice.
posted by dizziest at 4:51 PM on June 17, 2008

Thanks for suggesting the IPRC-- they look pretty cool, but they don't offer screenprinting so that's a bit of a snag as that's my focus. I'll keep it in mind to ask them!
posted by actionpact at 5:29 PM on June 17, 2008

The primary goal of starting any non-profit organization is to WIN FRIENDS and INFLUENCE PEOPLE.

That in mind, your first job is to assess what you already have in front of you. If you are already involved in relief or screenprinting and have made a name for yourself and/or are in contact with other names in the field, you should organize a show as a fundraiser for your organization. Before you even book a gallery and start looking for caterers, you need to think about what your organization will look to achieve in the first three years. I would assume this strategy:

Y1. Raise funds for an artist(s) studio space (rental); salary for a trained staff member; explore options to raise or bid for public and private funding based on educational/artistic goals of providing adult and/or youth art training in screenprinting and other forms.

Y2. Hold two gallery events. First would be a funder show, directors would solicit art to be donated for sale; second is a show of work from the best-of your studio, for sale to the benefit of the individual artists. Your goal is three-fold: build links to the art buyer and art media community [this is your board...by all means: DO NOT SOLICIT YOUR FRIENDS TO BE BOARD MEMBERS]; facilitate community interaction with artists to raise awareness of educational/artistic opportunities your organization provides [this is your base for class enrollment and studio rental]; build a small donor network that includes artists who were launched from your platform [this is the small, sustaining donor network you show off to major donors]. Organize a calendar of events and classes related to your organization's mission statement and educational/artistic goals.

Y3. Continue with second year plan; create an annual report that illustrates the great art and the good work you've done in the community and market it as a vehicle to raise awareness outside of your home market. This is a key strategy to turn your organization from a local group into a 'school' for screenprinting art and expertise. Hire a part-time development officer.
posted by parmanparman at 9:38 PM on June 17, 2008

If you want more advice, mail me.
posted by parmanparman at 9:45 PM on June 17, 2008

You'll need to to be 501-c-3 organization before you can attract tax deductible grants or individual gifts (straight sponsorships are different, but harder to get). You should start this process right away. Contact Lawyers for the Creative Arts for the best advice on how to do this. Many government and private philanthropies also require that you be in existence for a year, so start this process early. You do not need to actually be providing your end service when you start the process. Cart can lead the horse here.

Concurrently with this process, you should contact the community foundation in your city and set up an informational interview with them. If you have a good business plan community foundations are often willing to provide first and or second year seed money in useful amounts. They will be attracted if you are also providing, for instance, after school instruction to at-risk kids or inschool services based out of your center, or if you locate in an underserved area. Your idea to have a fee-based membership is excellent, as arts funders like to see that you have earned income (unlike social services, arts funders want you to have as much as 50% or more earned revenue).

Try researching areas within your city that have foundations that target them. Think about locating there (you will often find rents cheaper in these areas anyway. They are targeted because they are poor and need development). You'll up your desirability if you add a youth jobs training component to such a project.

You should also see if you can piggy back on an existing organization, as suggested above. Try a local school or park district, or see if there is an organization like Urban Gateways or Gallery 37 in your area.

I do fundraising in the arts in Chicago. I have run a nfp art gallery and was involved with an artists coop and a print center like the one you describe. MeMail me if you like.
posted by nax at 7:21 AM on June 18, 2008

Thanks parmanparman and nax! You both gave really excellent advice and I may write you in the near future-- you're both awesome!
posted by actionpact at 9:47 AM on June 18, 2008

« Older Macster Chief where art thou?   |   Video capture with iSight under Tiger? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.