Report: England's theatres turn to unpaid staff as volunteers increase by 30%

The Stage, 2/24/11

Increasing numbers of unpaid volunteers are being employed at theatres and arts centres across England, potentially at the expense of paid professional staff, according to new research published by Arts Council England.  Volunteer numbers at ACE regularly funded organisations increased by nearly a third in 2009/10 at a time when paid staff levels remained virtually static.  This was despite the fact that arts organisations' average income increased by 5% over the same period. The report is likely to raise fears that with cuts to public subsidy of arts organisations already having taken place in 2010 and with further cuts expected this year and next, arts organisations could turn more and more to volunteer staff to keep them afloat.  According to the data, large theatres (income of more than 1 million) employ on average 60 volunteer staff, compared to 67 full time paid staff and 183 contract or freelance staff. Meanwhile, medium theatre companies (between 250,000 and 1 million) employ on average 27 volunteers, eight full time staff and 49 contract or freelance workers, and smaller theatres employ 13 volunteers, four full-time and 30 contract staff.

 

Commentary: Ask your volunteers to donate money, not just time

The Nonprofiteer blog, 1/27/11

If fundraising is concentric circles, as consultants often say (you ask your friends and then their friends and then their friends' friends), then it seems to make the most sense to start asking right in the bosom of the family: your volunteers.  Often agencies are afraid to ask their volunteers for money on the grounds that they're already getting the volunteers' time, and it would be greedy to ask for more.  But in fact no one is in a better position to appreciate the value of the work you do, or the scarcity of resources under which you labor, than a volunteer.  Further, though not all volunteers are privileged, they are at least people who have leisure time to donate, which suggests they're not grindingly poor.  Will any volunteers take umbrage at being asked to give money as well as time?  Sure; a certain percentage of the population finds discussion of money distasteful, and such people may well be represented in your volunteer corps.  But you're not any poorer for asking them, and there's very little reason to think they'd stop volunteering at an activity they enjoy because you asked them a question to which the answer was "no."  Don't extend this blithe attitude, though, to asking your volunteers to ask for money.  Direct-service volunteers are apt to be offended if they're asked to do other kinds of volunteer work, such as fundraising, because the request suggests that they're not already working hard enough.  You understand the difference between time and money, and your need for both; your volunteers are equally sophisticated.  So ask them for money, not for more time.

 

Commentary: People who sing in choruses more likely to volunteer and donate

Agnes Gund, The Huffington Post, 2/25/11

Chorus America reports that there are 270,000 choruses nation-wide -- in schools, churches and synagogues, in community centers and other local facilities, in colleges and clubs and in people's homes. Thirty-two and a half million Americans sing in choruses -- ten million of them are children. There are singers in one out of every five households. Americans sing with and for their neighbors. An impact study done by Chorus America shows that singers are more likely to volunteer in their communities [and] donate more than twice the philanthropic dollars.

 

Commentary: Reinvent arts funding via volunteers and 'guided crowdsourcing'

Ian David Moss and Daniel Reid, Createquity.com, 2/22/11

The number of aspiring professional artists in the United States has reached unprecedented levels and will only continue to grow. The arts' current system of philanthropic support is woefully underequipped to evaluate this explosion of content and nurture its most promising elements -- but we believe the solution to the crisis is sitting right in front of us.   Philanthropic institutions, in their efforts to provide stewardship to a thriving arts community, have largely overlooked perhaps the single most valuable resource at their disposal: audience members.  We contend that, by harnessing the talents of the arts' most knowledgeable, committed, and ethical citizens and distributing funds according to the principles of what we have termed guided crowdsourcing, grantmaking institutions can increase public investment in and engagement with the arts, increase the diversity and vibrancy of art accessible to consumers, and ensure a more meritocratic distribution of resources.  So far, this technique has not been explored in depth by foundations, arts-focused or otherwise, but it has been developed robustly elsewhere [Wikipedia, for example.]  Barack Obama's 2008 election campaign used guided crowdsourcing to establish a seamless continuum between motivated volunteers and professional staff.  Taking its cue from these successful efforts to shape a broad-based grassroots effort with gentle guidance from the top, a foundation could invent an entirely new model of arts philanthropy -- one that matches the explosion of artistic content with an explosion of critical acumen to evaluate it.

= = =

A new 'daily deal' website for non-profit donations

TechnologyInTheArts.org, 2/25/11

A new daily deal site launched this past month, but this site doesn't offer a deal for a spa trip or half off dinner at some posh restaurant. Philanthroper offers a daily solicitation for a non-profit doing some good, and asks visitors to give just one dollar. The idea is very similar to sites like Groupon and Living Social. Each non-profit gets front-page realty on the site, but just for 24 hours. Why just a dollar? As the site states: "So you can donate another $1 tomorrow. And another the next day. Use Philanthroper daily, and we guarantee, you'll donate more over time than you would have otherwise plus it won't sting your bank account so badly. If you're compelled to make a larger donation, fantastic. We always link their site. So go for it." The financial cut Philanthroper takes from each donation - zero -- is the biggest thing setting them apart from other crowdfunding sites like Kickstarter and USA Projects. The site's payment service takes a penny of each donation.  Support for the site comes from advertising, so as website Arstechnica puts it "...only your eyeballs, and not your charitable gifts, are paying to keep things going."   If the popularity of the site can continue to grow, there is a possibility to make a huge difference for many small non-profits.

Chorus America reports that there are 270,000 choruses nation-wide -- in schools, churches and synagogues, in community centers and other local facilities, in colleges and clubs and in people's homes. Thirty-two and a half million Americans sing in choruses -- ten million of them are children. There are singers in one out of every five households. Americans sing with and for their neighbors. An impact study done by Chorus America shows that singers are more likely to volunteer in their communities; they donate more than twice the philanthropic dollars; they vote more often and more regularly; they patronize other art forms way beyond the average.
Please consider the environment before printing out this email.  Thanks.
YOU'VE COTT MAIL is a free service for professionals in the arts.  Emails are sent most weekdays. 
If you are not already on the distribution list and would like to sign up, please click here:

Join Our Mailing List      Follow me on Twitter     
 
Click here to view an archive of recent past editions of "You've Cott Mail."