Survey of Arts Management

Course blog for American University PERF-570, Fall 2014

Welcome to my apartment, I call it ‘confusion’

Before starting this program I knew nonprofits existed but I’d never really thought about why they existed.  I understood that many arts programs operated under nonprofit status and assumed it was so they could receive grants and government funding.  Fortunately one of the first topics covered in all my classes has been the characteristics of a nonprofit.  The more I read the more ridiculous they seemed and I couldn’t fathom starting a nonprofit; I know now it’s because I was too focused on the money.  My first moment of clarity came Monday when Andrew Taylor mentioned that the nonprofit sector is owned by nobody.  Next, Anne L’Ecuyer reminded me that nonprofits act on some goal beyond monetary reward and then while reading Standing Room Only I was reminded of the Museum of Natural Curiosity located in Lehi, Utah, when the book mentioned that tailoring events to grandparent/grandchild experiences can be a great marketing strategy.   I visited the Museum of Natural Curiosity a couple months after it opened and got in for free because my mom bought an annual bonus grandparent pass that allows her to bring up to two guests in addition to my dad and their grandchildren.  It was amazing!  As I focused on this single nonprofit and its creation, it reminded me that while the nonprofit sector still seems ridiculous as a whole, it makes more sense if I look at it one organization at a time with a unique goal it’s working to achieve.  I wouldn’t say I’m ready to leave the confusion apartment but it’s definitely making more sense.

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5 comments on “Welcome to my apartment, I call it ‘confusion’

  1. shrulala
    September 12, 2014

    Trisha, I would love to visit a Museum of Natural Curiosity! That sounds very interesting! On the note of non profits – I agree it belongs to nobody and everybody is working towards a “cause”. Why do you think only the arts have to function under the non profit tag. Except for big names like Cirque get away with being for profit. Should it be that all artists just like other business should be for profit?

  2. trishayoung
    September 12, 2014

    Nonprofit organizations aren’t good or bad. Because I have spent my career in the private sector I naturally gravitate toward for profit but that is simply my own bias; a bias also shaped as a result of coming from an entrepreneurial family with a habit of creating businesses. Nonprofits have never been a consideration before now and most of my hiccups have been because I’ve been looking at nonprofits through a ‘private sector’ lens instead of objectively. I’m sure it’ll work itself out.

  3. gaochang619
    September 12, 2014

    Actually I haven’t figure out the distinct boundary between non profit and for profit yet. It might be ridiculous that when I read the biography of Steve Jobs, something just flashed upon me: if Apple started under the idealism to demolish the old life style and devote to it continually, should it be defined as a non profit organization? But after a deep, struggling and long-time consideration I think…I may stay in the confusion room for some weeks or months and I would love to visit the Museum of Natural Curiosity.

  4. yaoge2016
    September 12, 2014

    As China doesn’t has its own nonprofit or nongovernmental organization( for some reasons), I’m always curious of the unique organization structure. I thought those founders are so idealistic that they choose not to own the institution, but I soon recognize it is not the idealism the reason why they choose the structure. They just view the development of organization outweighing the monetary benefits of themselves. They choose between several structures, like not-for-profit, for-profit, public/private partnership, considering the current situation they are facing and pros and cons of each structure. For me, before questioning the nonprofit structure as whole, I will consider the situation of each unique organization when it first established and test if its decision is wise after development for years.

  5. jessicamallow
    September 13, 2014

    It is certainly an interesting distinction! I also worked in for-profit before working in the non-profit world. They are very different in many aspects, but many non-profits and for-profits do share certain characteristics, particularly amongst the marketing and communications teams, which seem to function similarly (with budget and mission differences, perhaps). However, I do hear increasingly that you should “run a non-profit like a for-profit company”; in other words, non-profits are beginning to run the business model as though they’re going to make money. Whether or not they do, they aren’t entering each year with the expectation of a deficit any longer (or they shouldn’t be), because that funding model simply doesn’t work. And when you run the business in the particular manner, even if you do end up with a “profit”, it’s all returning to your business for a future season, etc, therefore even further minimizing the difference between the two types of businesses. Although one is much more mission-driven, they both operate under hierarchical goals and strategic plans!

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