Giving Compass' Take:

• Kelly Lamb Pollock, writing for ARTS Blog, discusses why "there is no one size fits all" model for art organizations. 

• How can arts organizations collaborate and share ideas on the most effective models? 

• Read more about arts and culture philanthropy. 

There is no “one size fits all” model when it comes to arts organizations. From performing arts, to museums, and arts education, our structures and operations vary widely; yet we often are melded into one pool of “arts organizations” when it comes to checking boxes for funding and other nonprofit classifications.

As the Executive Director of COCA – Center of Creative Arts, a multifaceted, hybrid organization, I know first-hand how difficult and unhelpful it can be to benchmark our organization against others with different approaches and measures of success. One such benchmark is the ratio of earned to contributed revenue. Our operating budget is approximately 42% earned to 58% contributed revenue. Is our earned revenue too high? Too low? What should it be? The verdict is still out. Even when you encounter information on financial health of arts organizations, it tends to be more diagnostic than prescriptive.

Just last year, I was excited to see that The Wallace Foundation released a report on this topic, Audience Building and Financial Health in the Nonprofit Performing Arts, only to discover the punchline: “To date, we do not know which predictors are most relevant and important for analyzing the financial health of performing arts organizations.”

Despite the lack of definitive benchmarking data, I think most of us would agree that a diversified revenue portfolio is a positive step toward sustainability. At COCA, as we think about our organization’s growth, impact, and longevity, we have focused on building our audience/student base and understanding our organizational assets in an effort to increase our earned revenue.

Read the full article about sustainable models for arts organizations by Kelly Lamb Pollock at ARTS Blog.