Up to the minute news on arts and business partnerships.


Brewing Up Great Partnerships in Eugene, Oregon

Posted by Emily Peck

The Arts and Business Alliance of Eugene (ABAE) celebrated great local partnerships at their BRAVA awards breakfast. Watch the video to learn why Ninkasi Brewery partners with local musicians.


Check out videos of more great partnerships in Eugene, Oregon and learn more about how these partnerships drive economic development, strengthen the ability of businesses to recruit talented individuals into the workforce and stimulate creativity and innovation throughout the community.

Buying Local is the Tipping Point in Small Towns

Posted by Tracy Graziani
Buying Local is the Tipping Point in Small Towns

At the recent Americans for the Arts Annual Convention the Arts and Economic Prosperity IV research was released to the public and the media. One of the trends noted in the presentation is the increasing urbanization of America. More and more people are moving to cities. This reality is posing unique challenges for small and medium-sized cities and towns.


In the 90s the big box stores descended upon Middle America with pervasive force, edging out “mom and pop shops” left and right. Some bemoaned the change, others viewed it as progress, and ultimately the “boxes” took over.


In the recent economic downturn many of those big box stores have left small towns, or significantly reduced their inventory. Now the residents can’t buy what they need at the big box or the “mom and pop,” so they turn to the internet or drive to a larger town. Of course the problem with this is that the commerce is then benefiting another community either where the online business resides or simply a bigger city in another county nearby.

The decreased tax revenue as well as the loss of commerce has a direct negative impact on the livability of these communities. Either the taxes have to go up or public services like nonprofits, schools, police, fire, and roads suffer. At least in our small town, the latter is what we have faced.


This leads us back to where we started—the research. When the livability of a community is subpar, educated and affluent people are more likely to leave, hence the migration to larger cities and towns. Some people even refer to this migration as “brain drain.”


Mansfield, OH, is a town that typifies this scenario. The arts organizations, nonprofits, and public services are all struggling to find their way in an economy that is increasingly unfriendly to small towns. The people of Mansfield, like the people in countless small towns across America, love their community and have high hopes for reviving their hometown. They have come together in some interesting ways as we adapt to the tougher times.


Our community development group, Richland Community Development Group (RCDG) has very active sector groups including the “Be Focal Buy Local” action team.  This group in particular has been pivotal in helping my organization, the Mansfield Art Center, develop business partnerships in creative ways.


A key theme at the Americans for the Arts Annual Convention was the value of creating corporate partnerships. In the traditional sense, that is nearly impossible in small cities and towns. Nearly all corporate presence in Mansfield is at best tertiary to the main office of a given corporation and none of the decision makers who affect philanthropy are in our town. As you can imagine, that means very little corporate sponsorship is available for the arts and other nonprofits.


One notable exception is the model used at Aetna. They have a long tradition of corporate philanthropy that is very friendly to the arts, in fact last year Americans for the Arts awarded them a spot on their BCA 10: Best Companies Supporting the Arts in America.

This company utilizes a large work-from-home employee base. These employees can volunteer at local nonprofits while being paid their regular Aetna wage. In fact, Aetna has even taken an active role in leveraging some of that work from home staff at the Mansfield Art Center. That’s a really great contribution they’re making. It’s not a check, but I need volunteers as well.


Another trend, also discussed at length during the convention is the local movement. There is increasing focus on shopping, dining, and sourcing locally. Whether through Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) or a simple focus on shopping at local and independent merchants, the local trend is becoming popular in big cities like Detroit, where they just celebrated “8 weeks under 8 Mile”, or small towns like Mansfield, with our active “Be Focal Buy Local” group. At least for my organization, this is our tipping point where we are seeing the greatest impact on sponsorships and corporate membership.


Our active involvement in the “Be Focal Buy Local” action team has led to some less traditional sponsorships. A local auto dealership, Mansfield Motor Group, like many businesses, places philanthropy in the hands of their marketing department. They were interested in supporting the arts, in large part because our patrons are a key demographic they hope to reach for their business. The dealership’s owner and I created a customized sponsorship that met his marketing needs and provided us with the sponsorship we needed for our summer arts festival, Mansfield Art Explosion. He wanted to do something that would show off his cars, and an outdoor arts festival is a great location.


The resulting idea is fun and fits the needs of both organizations. We will have five white cars on our lawn that day, which will be painted with water-soluble paints by local artists. Thanks to their financial support we have the money to more aggressively market the festival with billboards and radio ads, something we couldn’t afford to do in the past. Of course Mansfield Motor Group will receive credit in all of our marketing.


Another interesting opportunity that has emerged as a result of our involvement in the business community is our new text marketing campaign and sweepstakes. Another member of the “Be Focal Buy Local” group owns a text marketing business, He offered the Mansfield Art Center a special reduced rate on his services since we are a nonprofit and he wishes to support the arts.


Text marketing could help us better reach that coveted 24–35 demographic that we hope to expand within our membership, so we were excited to start the campaign. One of the best ways to build up a good cache of “opt-ins” for text marketing is to offer a sweepstakes.  This is where another interesting sponsorship opportunity emerged.  It is even more impactful to offer a small reward for every opt-in in addition to the grand prize.  We really couldn’t afford to buy prizes to pass out for the opt-ins, but a local wine shop and wine bar, The Happy Grape, made a very generous offer. Not only would they give a $50 gift certificate toward the grand prize, they would also give a free piece of chocolate cake to every person who opted in. Let’s face it that is a pretty sweet deal, who doesn’t like cake?


In Middle America’s small towns we have much to be concerned about. There is a fear that our way of life may be fading away in the shift toward all things urban and corporate, but there are glimmers of hope that a new future will emerge for towns like Mansfield.


The Mansfield Art Center has experienced over 30 percent growth in memberships this year and things just keep getting better. All of this is thanks to our willingness to adapt to our changing economy. Are times tough? Absolutely, but the staff at the Mansfield Art Center is innovating in exceedingly creative ways as we find our place in a shifting economy.


*This post was originally posted on ARTSblog.


*Photo courtesy of vitorhirota.

Perserverance Pays Off: Reaching out to Your Local Chamber of Commerce

Posted by Suzan Jenkins
Perserverance Pays Off: Reaching out to Your Local Chamber of Commerce

After several years of trying, I was happy to finally snag a meeting with the Montgomery County (Maryland) Chamber of Commerce to make a presentation called Innovative Ways to Attract/Retain Top Talent: Innovative Arts & Humanities Community Strategies. How did I do it? Sheer perseverance!!


Why did it take me nearly two years to convince the president and CEO of the chamber of commerce that arts-centric businesses play an important role in building and sustaining economic vibrancy?


Because like many corporate professionals, she was skeptical that we could demonstrate that partnering with our sector can build market share; heighten awareness of member company products and services; attract employees; increase job satisfaction; and, enhance relationships with existing and new customers.


Like so many of her peers, she was unaware of that arts-centric businesses spend money locally, attract talented young professionals, generate government revenue at a high rate of return, and serve as a cornerstone of tourism and economic development

So I kept at it. And finally, she shared that her members’ most pressing concern was employee retention. She asked whether the arts and humanities community could offer strategies that would help corporate employers attract and retain top talent.


When I emphatically assured her that we could, she eagerly invited me to make a presentation to a joint meeting of the Economic Development and Small Business Committees. I was thrilled! So, of course I asked former Montgomery County Arts and Humanities Council Board Member Mara Walker (also the chief operating officer of Americans for the Arts) to join me and bring her pARTnership Movement slides. I knew our dynamic duo would hit a home run!


Mara prepared a stellar presentation draft and we edited it together. She also prepared a captivating narrative that demonstrated how harnessing the creative community has helped specific multinational companies gain a competitive advantage and advance their business strategies. From the first slide, our audience was hooked!


Our presentation went smoothly, so much so that one of the members immediately invited us to make another presentation for their company within the month. And we will!

We must continue to give practical examples of how the business community can consider the arts and humanities as a resource for creative problem-solving and that our sector can help to build market share.


As we further develop our relationships within the business community, we can help them heighten awareness of their company’s products and services, attract new employees, and provide them ways to increase job satisfaction and enhance relationships with existing and new customers.


It’s not often that we can see and feel a win-win, but in this case it worked!


(Editor’s Note: Join Suzan at the Americans for the Arts Annual Convention in San Antonio for the Private-Sector Funding in the New Normal session to hear more.)


*This post was originally posted on ARTSblog.  Photo: Suzan Jenkins, CEO of the Arts & Humanities Council of Montgomery County (right) and Mara Walker, COO Americans for the Arts address the Economic Development and Small Business Committees.


Getting Big Results from pARTnerships with Small and Midsize Businesses

Posted by Emily Peck

Did you know that in 2009, 69 percent of business support for the arts came from businesses with annual revenues of less than $1 million dollars and that another 24 percent came from businesses with less than $50 million in annual revenue? And that 56 percent of the surveyed companies reported that they’d never been asked to support an arts organization?

The BCA Report: 2010 National Survey of Business Support for the Arts


Small and midsize businesses and arts organizations know these partnerships advance the arts, business and communities.


“Some of our best partners are the small and midsized companies in our community. These are the creative firms and family-owned businesses that are absolutely committed to supporting a high quality of life for their employees and families, and they understand that arts education and arts organizations are critical for a strong economic future.”

-Jeff Hawthorne, Director of Community Affairs, Regional Arts and Culture Council, Portland, Oregon


“Printing Partners understands that a strong and vibrant arts community is good for business. Our arts organizations, through performances and educational outreach, promote a creative environment that attracts business, creates jobs, and promotes life long learning.”

-Michael O’Brien, President, Printing Partners, Indianapolis, Indiana


Want to learn more?  Read tips on partnering with small and midsize business in our newest tool-kit.

When Working Together is as Important as the Work

Posted by Wayne Andrews
When Working Together is as Important as the Work

Where we live is important to each of us. It is a key part of our identity. It’s a source of pride, even if our hometown is the punch line to a joke.


Is it really the good schools, parks, and access to shopping centers that make us live where we live? Many people find a fulfilling sense of community in smaller towns and rural regions that do not have all the advantages of larger communities.


Maybe it is not the measurable elements that give a place a sense of community but rather those intangible qualities that create the feeling. Could it be that working with your neighbors to build a park is more important to the sense of community than the actual park? The arts have always been one of the focal points around that help to build a sense of community.


Town festivals, cultural events, and celebrations are often the most visible signs of a community working together. Each pumpkin festival, summer concert series on the town square, or art sale pulls together diverse elements of the community.

An example of this can be seen in Oxford, MS, which has worked to define itself as an arts community. Numerous programs have been launched in partnership between various segments of the community.


Last year working with local business owners, artists, and the Convention and Visitors Bureau, a monthly art crawl was launched to highlight the visual artists in the region.


Business owners opened their shops to one night-only art exhibits to encourage residents to spend the early evening downtown, walking and looking at art, hoping they would purchase items from their stores or enjoy dinner in a local restaurant, impacting the local economy.


The success was measurable and visible. Business owners experienced growing crowds, walking through art exhibits, sidewalks full of visitors from other communities, and retail shops drawing new customers during the art crawl.


Read the entire post on ARTSblog.

A Drama Graduate and a Philosopher Start a Business...

Posted by Emily Peck
A Drama Graduate and a Philosopher Start a Business...

Rebecca Lewis Smith, co-founder of Fountain Partnership explains why employers should not give up on the arts.


"Between a drama graduate and a philosopher, you wouldn’t necessarily expect enterprise and job creation – and yet here we are, running a successful and growing company.


So what it is about arts, humanities and social science degrees that create the type of graduates that are interesting to employers? One of the key aspects is to do with a passion for learning. If you have spent three years immersed in American Studies, English Lit or History, you’re likely to have been following a passion.


When Marcus chose philosophy or I chose drama, it wasn’t about saying ‘I don’t want a career from this’ – it was about taking higher education as just that; a higher level of investigation, critical thinking and learning, rather than a direct path to a job.


Any new team member in our business needs to be someone who is ‘lit up’ by learning – an absolutely crucial element of our fast-paced industry.


This might include learning core principals of business, but it will also be about finding out about our clients, researching and writing about their industries and helping us to gain an understanding of the target audiences we are reaching out to.


We also want someone who enjoys the challenge of creative problem solving. We don’t need someone to simply apply a theory to our business – we need people who will engage with the problem at hand, investigate different ways of solving it and, where necessary, push boundaries in order to find a resolution."


Read the entire article at the Eastern Daily Press.



*Photo courtesy of Brian Hillegas

Finding a Local Business Partner to Support the Arts

Posted by Emily Peck
Finding a Local Business Partner to Support the Arts

By Wayne Andrews, Executive Director of the Yoknapatawpha Arts Council (YAC) based in Lafayette County, Mississippi


The arts have always been a reflection of community — creating from the cultural fiber of their environment and serving as the original grassroots marketers.


This connection between community and the artist has been the key to building support. In the technical terms of marketing professionals, artists create brand loyalty and businesses have started to recognize the value of partnering with the arts to reach their loyal customer base.


Check any social media site and you will find a wealth of businesses trying to show their support arts and charitable organizations.


Pepsi has their Refresh Project, CITGO offers to Fuel Good, Maxwell House offers Drops of Good, and Tom’s of Maine offered a nationwide promotion entitled 50 States of Good.

This drive to connect is beneficial as the programs offer access to funds for groups both large and small, while providing marketing a media that expands the reach of groups. Yet, many of these programs although seemingly altruistic, are just efforts by corporate marketing departments to create a program that makes a national company feel local.

Still, these programs have value because they encourage smaller, local companies to think about how to support their communities.


An example is Cathead Vodka in Gluckstadt, MS is a small start-up that began their business with a concept that everything they did was about their community. They took a product rooted in the juke joints of Mississippi and tapped its heritage as part of its mission.


In the creation of their product, Cathead looked at how it would be part of the community and recognized that as they grew, they could help grow support for community organizations. In defining their brand, they looked for partners that would celebrate that theme (they also have “support live music” on the label).


Cathead did not look to make donations, but championed a cause united under their product. Starting with Mississippi, the owners have found partners who they feel are giving to the community and recognize the value of roots of their town.

Upon finding a cultural soul mate, the company pledges a percentage of their sales to that charity. Cathead’s owners, Austin Marshall and Richard Patrick, have found that by following their passions both for their product and in what they support in their community has been a strong business model.


They have been able to not only tap the grassroots and community goodwill of organizations like Music Makers Foundation and the Yoknapatawpha Arts Council, but have established how they conduct business, thereby growing their reputation along with the community groups they support.


This is the offshoot of large corporate campaigns — actual relationships between businesses and arts groups who mutually support a passion.


This is not to imply that those corporate programs asking us to like their product on Facebook or vote for a charity for the organization to receive a donation are lacking in value. Their value may be that they encourage real partnerships and giving from businesses on a local or statewide scope.


What kinds of unique local business and arts partnerships have you seen in your community?


*This post was originally posted on ArtsBlog

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