If elected, GOP frontrunner Mitt Romney would cut federal funding for arts

Mike Boehm, L.A. Times' Culture Monster blog, 11/10/11

In an op-ed piece in USA Today, candidate Mitt Romney said he would "enact deep reductions in the subsidies for the NEA, the NEH, [and] the Corporation for Public Broadcasting." Earlier this year, a majority of Republican House members called for eliminating them. As Massachusetts governor, Romney tried to restrain but not eliminate arts spending. He did not succeed: The state Legislature voted additional money each year. The most important arts legislation during Romney's tenure was the 2006 creation of a Cultural Facilities Fund, which provides for annual grants to help nonprofit arts, historical and scientific organizations pay for construction projects. Romney vetoed the fund, but the Legislature overrode him. The Americans for the Arts Action Fund emailed an appeal this week to its 200,000 newsletter subscribers, citing Romney's call for "deep reductions" as a reason to donate to its campaign fund and get out its message that federal arts funding is a wise investment that helps foster jobs and pays dividends for the economy as a whole. The Action Fund's goal is to raise $150,000, targeted at 2012 congressional races, nearly doubling the $77,500 it gave candidates during the 2008 election cycle. Neither presidential campaign received money in 2008 because Barack Obama refused contributions from political action committees and John McCain wasn't deemed friendly toward the arts. [They anticipate] Obama will decline PAC contributions in 2012 and that the Republican nominee won't favor preserving or increasing arts budgets, leaving [the] group to again funnel all its political money to congressional races.


Commentary: How to convince naysayers about the value of the arts

Alison Wade, Art Advocado blog, 11/10/11

[There are] myriad arguments we use to advocate for the arts, from the instrumental (job creation, economic driver, creative workforce driver) to the intrinsic (an artwork that gives you the chills or makes you laugh or cry or think). But so frequently the only response we get is not "that's not true" but rather "there's not enough money." What kind of message will reach these folks? It may be unrealistic to reach the real antagonists, but the "on-the-fencers" may be a group we can convince -- with help from the right messages. With apologies to McLuhan, the ripple effect is the message. That's where this terrific piece from Santa Cruz's Museum of Art & History director Nina Simon comes in. In a recent blog post, Nina highlighted the relevant points from a report by Cincinnati-based ArtsWave. [They] found that what doesn't work are the arguments about health benefits, stress reduction, civic boosterism/local pride. In other words, the arguments that often fall into the "intrinsic" category. So if those arguments aren't effective, which ones are? ArtsWave found the effective arguments involved an "arts ripple effect:"

1. A vibrant, thriving economy: Neighborhoods are more lively, communities are revitalized, tourists and residents are attracted to the area, etc.
2. A more connected population: Diverse groups share common experiences, hear new perspectives, understand each other better, etc.

Simon's piece focuses on advocating for specific institutions but I think the arguments she presents apply to the arts as a whole, beyond the institutional level.  Simon also notes that what works to advocate for the arts in Cincinnati or Santa Cruz may not work somewhere else. What have you found is an effective arts advocacy in your community?


Commentary: Let's stop shouting about public funding for the arts

Margy Waller of ArtsWave, Createquity blog, 10/24/11

Advocates for the arts might be better off doing their work under the radar than trying so hard to get a lot of media and public attention. Members of the public typically have positive feelings toward the arts, some quite strong. But how they think about the arts is shaped by a number of common default patterns that ultimately obscure a sense of shared responsibility in this area. For example, it is common for people who are not insiders to think of the arts in terms of entertainment. In this view, entertainment is a "luxury," and the "market" will determine which arts offerings survive. Consequently, public support for the arts makes little sense, particularly when public funds are scarce. A different approach, one that moves people to a new, more resonant way of thinking [is that] the arts create ripple effects of benefits. This is not only compelling, but it also sets an expectation of public responsibility for the arts. However, we know it will take time, repetition, and many partners across the nation to bring this way of thinking to the forefront of people's minds. So until we effect that change, the better strategy may be to keep stories about public funding for the arts off the front pages. To some this may seem counter-intuitive. If we care about the arts, shouldn't we be shouting about it? It depends. Is our advocacy goal a widely seen news piece outlining all sides of the issue? Or, do we want a successful budget outcome? This past year, advocates at Ohio Citizens for the Arts carefully managed what seemed to be a stealth campaign to retain funding through the Ohio Arts Council. Despite an initial proposed cut, the final outcome was an increase in funding over $4 million more than the previous budget. And it went forward without fanfare or comment when signed into law. Compare this with the nightmare that was Kansas [where the state arts agency was eliminated]. As a little test, I tried two Google searches: One for blogs mentioning '"Ohio Arts Council" budget' and the other for '"Kansas Arts Commission" budget'. I limited findings to the first six months in 2011. The Kansas search revealed over 1000 posts, compared to only 42 in Ohio. It appears that the Ohio advocates strategically sought to keep the campaign under the radar. And it worked.


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Commentary: 3 diagnoses for why your fundraising message isn't getting through

Katya Andresen, Nonprofit Marketing Blog, 10/23/11 [hat tip to Doug Borwick]

#1: "Field of Dreams" syndrome. Those who have this disease believe that, "If you build it, they will come." If you have FODS, you think that if you build a website and stick a DonateNow button on it, donors will arrive and click. This disease also manifests itself as an assumption that uttering your mission statement will inspire people to give. If you find yourself saying, "If people only knew, they would...," then you have FODS. Declaring your existence is not a marketing campaign. It is a symptom of FODS. The cure? You need to reach out to people and build relationships with them. Then maybe they'll want to support you.

#2: "It's all about us" disease. Nonprofits suffering from this disease are easy to spot -- their home pages, emails and all of their correspondence reads like an "About Us" page. Sometimes, this ailment is called "Nonprofit Narcissism." Mission statements, the history of your organization and other related details should not be found everywhere and do not constitute a strong message. The cure? Make it about your supporters, not you. Why should they care? What can they accomplish? How have they changed the world with their support?

#3: "Call to inaction" problem. In order to generate donations and or inspire action, you need to have a clear call to action. It's not enough to state who you are, what you do and what's new. You need to clearly state what you are asking and appeal to prospective supporters to take that action. "Save the earth" is not a call to action. Nor is "support us." Be direct, specific and clear!

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