Frequently Asked Questions

Singers Blooming Art

Q: The arts empower youth and communities; how do we translate this into collaborative fundraising and collective advocacy? What’s the first step?

A: Our successes with collaborative fundraising and collective advocacy were built on strong relationships and mutual trust among 30 youth arts organizations in eastern Massachusetts. The foundation of these connections was the ARTWorks for Kids coalition. To learn more, visit Build It.

Q: What if we don’t have a funder leading the way?

A: The ARTWorks coalition certainly benefited from the vision and resources of Swanee Hunt, but the goal of this site is to present what we’ve learned so that you can adopt or adapt the parts of our model that best suit your community.

Q: What’s the relationship between Swanee Hunt, Hunt Alternatives, and Hunt Alternatives Fund?

A: Hunt Alternatives Fund was Swanee Hunt’s family foundation and served as the primary source of grantmaking and operational support for the ARTWorks coalition. In 2014, the organization was re-branded to “Hunt Alternatives” to better reflect a deeper focus on its national and international  programming.

Q: Does it matter in what order we tackle this work? 

A: Though we strongly encourage building a coalition first, you can adopt or adapt whichever parts of the model are most appropriate for your community.

Q: What is the right size for a coalition?

A: There is no one right size. We chose 30 organizations because that number allowed us to have the diversity of size, art form, population served, and community representation that we thought was necessary to achieve our longer-term objectives.

Q: Who staffed the coalition?

A: ARTWorks was a program of Swanee Hunt’s foundation. It was staffed by a director and one support person, with staff from the foundation’s other programs pitching in to help with Blooming Art events. This additional support allowed coalition members to focus on preparing youth performances and engaging donors.

Q: Some smaller organizations rely on only one full-time staff person and limited resources. How did you ensure that all coalition members benefited from the collaborative fundraising events?

A: From the outset, we were determined to include a wide array of organizations, both in terms of staff size and budget. Coalition members had different levels of capacity and experience with major donor fundraising, and during the first Blooming Art events, some smaller organizations didn’t fare as well as their larger, more experienced counterparts. After that, ARTWorks staff matched the less experienced organizations with fundraising “mentors” from some of the larger cultural institutions in eastern Massachusetts (see Mentoring and Technical Assistance).

Q: Did new donors—acquired via collaborative fundraising—tend to stick with the organizations they “discovered” at Blooming Art?

A: Some of them did. We did not do an in-depth study after the fifth and final Blooming Art, but we know that some organizations connected with new donors at those events who are still supporting them almost a decade later and, in some cases, even playing leadership roles on their boards.

Q: Were the funds raised “unrestricted”?

A: That depended on the donor; unrestricted funds were highly encouraged, but a donor could ask that his or her gift be used to support a particular program.

Q: How do we use data to “prove” that the arts benefit the community?

A: We know of two examples of shared data collection: the Boston Youth Arts Evaluation Project and Downtown Aurora Visual Arts (via the Colorado Alliance for Creative Youth Development).

Q: How can we begin to influence political leaders in our community who don’t seem to value the arts?

A: MASSCreative’s approach in 2015 is a good case study. They organized the first Arts Matter Advocacy Day with 250 arts leaders, allies, and state officials to ask for support for arts and culture in Massachusetts. Arts advocates spent the morning in training sessions to understand the state budget process and, perhaps more importantly, to craft personal stories that would inspire policymakers to think differently about the arts. Less than six months later, success was realized when the state legislature reversed the governor’s veto, ensuring increased arts funding across Massachusetts.

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Q: How was the work and impact of ARTWorks evaluated?

A:  Craig Dreeszen was hired in 2007 and again in 2010 to evaluate the program. In 2007, he found that the ARTWorks had achieved a fair amount of success with its first two goals—building a strong coalition and increasing support for member organizations from major individual givers—and had potential to make real gains in advocacy. When Dr. Dreeszen revisited the program in 2010, he found that our strategy had been implemented well, but short-term results were inconclusive. This finding prompted the board of Swanee Hunt’s foundation to extend support for the coalition’s advocacy by a few years.

Q: Why did ARTWorks end?

A: When the program started in 2003, the board of Swanee Hunt’s foundation envisioned it lasting three to five years. Its funding was extended a few times in response to new advocacy opportunities and fundraising successes, but the board voted in 2012 to complete the program.

Q: Do you feel like you achieved sustainability? What’s happened since the most active phase of the ARTWorks program ended?

A: The ARTWorks coalition, and many allies and partners, helped sustain the arts at all grade levels through the Boston Public Schools Arts Expansion Initiative (via EdVestors) and by helping launch the first statewide advocacy organization, MASSCreative, which has realized several significant policy victories since 2012. But these gains need to be protected, and some level of continued attention is needed to make sure that these “wins” are not rolled back by future budget debates or changes in policymakers and elected leaders.