|Project:||United Arts Fund|
|United Arts Fund|
In response to the rapid changes due to the economy, technology and younger employees' interests in supporting their communities in different ways, the United Arts Fund (UAF) program of COMPAS has designed a bold new strategy for their allocations which will no longer provide General Operations Support or Programming/Projects Support grants. UAF is one of many community-based arts funds across the country seizing opportunities for new and strategic collaborations that will build the resiliency of their grantees and also increase the impact of donor contributions. At the same time, COMPAS recognized the need for its work to align more strongly with shifting community priorities while holding true to their mission, values, and programming interests.
Looking to the future, the COMPAS Board and leadership team completed a strategic planning process with the goal of deepening the organization’s relevance and impact. They commissioned an independent and extensive program assessment of all programming with an emphasis on UAF and related grant making. More than 70 individuals were interviewed one-on-one and in small group meetings. Supplemental research was carried out to verify, clarify, or expand on the information collected through the interviews.The significant findings included:
- As UAF allocations have diminished in the past decade, the average grant amount decreased by 36 percent. At the same time the number of applicants and dollars requested has increased substantially. In spring 2012, we had 148 applicants requesting a total of more than $1 million. UAF allocated $185,000 to 34 grantees.
- Arts groups participating in the COMPAS program assessment say larger grants to fewer organizations over more than one year would be a more effective strategy and have more impact. For example, in the recently completed FY13 grant round, the average grant totaled $5,440. The numbers affirmed what we heard in the program assessment --smaller grants appear to have little, or at best, limited impact on a shrinking pool of grantees. We also heard from this year’s applicants and grantees, the grants are not cost effective given the time and expense to prepare a proposal and final report.
- Smaller organizations interviewed in the UAF program assessment expressed interest in peer interaction and learning. Among those interviewed, those who also had participated in ArtsLab reported that their experience was valuable and recommended it as a good model for COMPAS.
- Many respondents representing the arts and philanthropy communities suggested that COMPAS, like other nonprofits, would benefit by focusing its mission and work more sharply in order to leverage its resources most effectively and efficiently.
As a result of this research, COMPAS decided to rethink its UAF allocations strategy. For 2013-14 the UAF will collaborate with ARTSLAB, a program of Arts Midwest, for capacity-building for smaller arts organizations across Minnesota, allocating $270,000 of their funds through 2014. "Over and over again, we heard our constituents tell us to sharpen our mission, focus our work in the community, and leverage our resources with other partners to create greater impact," noted COMPAS Executive Director Bob Olsen. "ArtsLab kept coming up as a model, and constituent feedback sparked our exploration with Arts Midwest." Both UAF and ArtsLab share a history of supporting smaller and mid-sized organizations that are rooted in community. Many ArtsLab participants have been among UAF's applicants and grantees. However, ArtsLab not only offers monetary support like UAF, but also peer learning and customized consulting in a concentrated way that has longer-term benefits for the grantee.
COMPAS believes that UAF dollars combined with those of other funders will result in support for a program of far more impact than their smaller and more incremental operations and programming grants.
In addition to the ArtsLab commitment, UAF will allocate directly the remaining money (expected to be approximately $50,000 per year) through a new Youth Arts Fund. A statewide opportunity, the Youth Arts Fund will offer grants for in-school arts residencies that emphasize strong collaborations and co-design with school staff, and broader youth arts programming.
This means the UAF will no longer provide General Operations Support or Programming/Projects Support grants. This was a tough decision and will be a difficult transition for some grant-seekers. COMPAS believes the decision to support ArtsLab and refocus the remaining grants on Youth Arts will help better achieve the mission and sustainability of both UAF and COMPAS.
|Organization Contact:||Dan Adolphson|
|Project Contact:||Bob Olsen|