Leading for the Future: Innovative Support for Artistic Excellence
Leading for the Future, a program of Nonprofit Finance Fund funded by the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, was a pilot initiative designed to help a group of ten artistically outstanding performing arts organizations strengthen their business in a shifting environment. NFF provided grants, technical assistance, and consulting services to help each organization innovatively meet environmental challenges, such as the erosion of audience and the impact of technology on live performance, while developing models of sustainability that can be used by arts organizations nationwide.
Participants had access to up to $1 million of Change Capital over four or five years with the goal of allowing participants to take transformative rather than incremental steps to remain artistically relevant, effective and excellent while ensuring long-term financial viability.
In the right-hand column of this page, you can navigate to a compelling case study for each of the ten participating organizations that concisely summarizes the highlights and lessons learned. (These are available as a single pdf here.) And, we invite you to review and download the key publications produced via the initiative below.
Alvin Ailey Dance Foundation, New York, NY
Center Theatre Group, Los Angeles, CA
Cunningham Dance Foundation, New York, NY
Jacob's Pillow Dance, Becket, MA
Misnomer Dance Theater, New York, NY
National Black Arts Festival, Atlanta, GA
Ping Chong & Company, New York, NY
SITI Company, New York, NY
Steppenwolf Theatre Company, Chicago, IL
The Wooster Group, New York, NY
This report provides a four-year evaluation of Leading for the Future: Innovative Support for Artistic Excellence (LFF). The analysis reflects critically on what was learned from the initiative for the benefit of funders, individual philanthropists and others with an interest in the theory and practice of capitalization as applied to nonprofit arts organizations.
This practical guide offers cultural organizations and their supporters a set of action-oriented tips for strengthening capitalization in ways essential to artistic and organizational resiliency. These principles were developed by NFF over more than three decades of partnership with both organizations and grantmakers. They promote improved decision-making by cultural nonprofits of all disciplines and sizes, and by the funders who support them.
Change Capital in Action: Lessons from Leading Arts Organizations shares the results of Leading for the Future (LFF), a five-year program that has invested change capital in ten leading performing arts organizations to support and sustain their business and artistic adaptation. It features principles of the LFF initiative, profiles of individual change efforts, participants financial and program outcomes, and lessons relevant for arts organizations and funders alike.
The Case for Change Capital in the Arts shares the philosophy governing the Leading for the Future Initiative and discusses the need for and application of change capital in the arts. It also outlines core principles and practices that can improve capitalization in the sector but that will require changes in behavior by both nonprofits and funders alike. The piece tells how each of the participating organizations is applying change capital to undertake meaningful artistic, organizational and financial change.
Financial Reporting Done Right introduces a new way of financial reporting that improves transparency around how organizations manage their capital resources. While conventional accounting and reporting treat capital and revenue in the same way, NFF recommends that nonprofits make stratightforward adjustments for capital that better reveal their true operating performance and progress.
Securing a Legacy: Merce Cunningham Dance Foundation's Historic Closure
In 2008, with leadership and support from its legendary founder and choreographer Merce Cunningham, the Cunningham Dance Foundation began laying the groundwork for its momentous closure after Merce was no longer able to work. Five years later, after a farewell worldwide Legacy Tour that culminated with final performances in New York City, the organization has ceased operation, provided career transition support for dancers and staff, and transferred its archival assets—including carefully curated digital “dance capsules” for each of its major works—to the Cunningham Trust. In this interactive webinar, you will hear their groundbreaking story, learn about the catalytic role played by flexible capital and ponder the implications of their exit for the field at large.
Join Steppenwolf Theatre Company and Center Theatre Group as we explore how each is using this special kind of investment to attract, develop and engage new audiences in creative and lasting ways. We’ll discuss what each organization is learning about new approaches to programming, the theatergoing experience, marketing and engagement techniques, and the role of young artists in attracting the next generation of patrons.
Reliable Revenue in the Arts -- Possibility or Pipe Dream?
Learn about how SITI Company, Jacob's Pillow Dance Festival, and Ping Chong & Company are building and sustaining more reliable revenue to support their cultural programming during a time of unprecedented artistic and economic flux. Discover how these organizations are investing Change Capital to invest in new marketing and development capacity, stabilize and grow earned income, attract new foundation revenue, and strengthen individual donor bases.
How Change Capital Can Help Arts Organizations
See our webinar on how "Change Capital" can help transform arts organizations. The discussion includes brief presentations from The Wooster Group and Alvin Ailey Dance Foundation, 2 of the 10 companies participating in NFF's Leading for the Future Initiative, supported by the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation. In the webinar, we discuss how to: Build a "risk reserve" fund for greater artistic freedom, stabilize earned income, generate incremental new revenue, and expand audiences.