Allied Arts is Oklahoma’s only United Arts Fund (UAF), and is dedicated to raising financial support and advancing the arts in central Oklahoma. Since 1971 Allied Arts has raised more than $54 million in support for the community’s arts and cultural organizations. It funds 64 agencies whose work impacts more than 1 million people annually.
Similar to other UAFs, Allied Arts employs a cross-sector approach, rallying the community’s corporations, foundations, and residents to support the arts using a combination of persuasive messaging, storytelling, and testimonials that express the transformative power the arts to the local economy. Members of the business community and community at large can then provide support by donating or participating in any number of Allied Arts’ innovative and engaging individual/corporate donors or employee giving programs.
Allied Arts then distributes the funds by way of grants to its 26 core member agencies and other grantees. These organizations represent a diversity of disciplines ranging from the visual arts, theatre, and dance to local arts agencies as well as historical and heritage based organizations. Member agencies include: the Arts Council of Oklahoma City; the Individual Artists of Oklahoma; Oklahoma City Ballet and the Opry Heritage Foundation of Oklahoma.
During its 2014 campaign, Allied Arts raised a record breaking $3.5 million, the most the organization has ever raised in its 44 year history. Jennifer Hidalgo Bryan, Allied Arts’ Campaign and Grants Director, credits the work of their member agencies and the surrounding community saying, “We are very fortunate to live in a city whose residents understand the impact a dynamic cultural landscape has on economic development and quality of life.” She points out that Allied Arts’ success is directly related to the quality programming, broad community outreach, and innovative educational experiences provided by its member agencies and grantees. The campaign’s success is also rooted in strong partnerships with the business community. Jennifer underscores that, “corporate support validates the credibility of any nonprofit, demonstrating to the general public that the nonprofit does meaningful work and is worthy of financial and volunteer support.”
So what are some tips Allied Arts offers arts organizations forging partnerships with the business community?
• Ensure that the partnership is a two-way street and always keep businesses informed of the impact they are making.
• Offer meaningful opportunities for employee engagement for all the businesses employees.
• Provide a service to businesses y helping raise awareness about the city’s robust cultural offerings.
• Be open to learning from the expertise and skill sets of business employees and applying some of that learning to the business of the arts.
Through this successful joint community effort, Allied Arts is able to fulfill its goal of ensuring that the arts & cultural groups in their community have the resources they need to remain strong, reach underserved populations, and offer quality programming to the public.
Kristen Bromley, Allied Arts’ Marketing and PR Manager, shares a story of how one student living with his single mother and grandmother had to take the role of being “man of the house” very seriously, but had always dreamed of playing guitar. The family was unsure if that dream could ever be made a reality, but then they found Granville Community Music School. Thanks to the support through Allied Arts, Granville Community Music School offers music lessons for 50 cents to low-income families. Since joining Granville, he has not only learned to play the guitar, but he has also grown into a happy, confident young man. Now he is no longer afraid of speaking in front of crowds, is doing better in school, is making friends and was also accepted into a fine arts charter school. Now, the young man would also like to start teaching beginning guitar to students of his own!
“It is a privilege to represent the needs of our arts organizations and be a part of the incredible work they do every day to enhance the quality of life for those in our city,” says Kristen. “We use stories from the agencies that we fund to show the transformative power of the arts in individual lives and in entire communities.”
In the next five years Allied Arts has a lots of big plans for raising funds and awareness for their work, all aimed at better serving the needs of the cultural community. In addition to increasing donor diversity and effectively integrating technology into fund- and friend-raising, Allied Arts seeks to grow their endowment in order to achieve the long-term goal of fully funding their operations so that 100% of campaign donations can be granted to strengthen the arts in their community.
Photo Caption: Granville Community School of Music provides music lessons to low-income students at only 50 cents a lesson to ensure the arts are accessible to all.