Following the NEA Stimulus Money

True to their word, the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) distributed all of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funds (AKA Stimulus Funds, Federal Bailout, etc.) within five months of the economic recovery bill. Not long ago, the NEA posted a list of nonprofit arts organizations that received a direct grant to “support the preservation of jobs that are threatened by declines in philanthropic and other support during the current economic downturn.” Here’s a list of how those funds were distributed along with some cross tabulation not available at the NEA website…

In addition to a list of recipients by group name, I’ve compiled lists based on amounts received and location by state:

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By group: click to enlarge

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By amount: click to enlarge

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By state: click to enlarge

It is interesting to examine the numbers of grants awarded to each state. Although the program was limited to organizations that have previously been awarded NEA grants, some states garnered more grant funds than others on a per capita comparison, such as Washington D.C. All in all, 10 states received no stimulus grants and the following pie chart illustrates the division of music grants distributed per state.

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Distribution of of NEA stimulus grants for music groups, per state.

Of particular interest are the grants awarded to the American Symphony Orchestra League, Chorus America, and Early Music America, Inc. Their applications for an American Recovery and Reinvestment Act grant risks being interpreted by member organizations as directly competing for targeted resources. By nature, service based organizations shouldn’t be competing with members for grants (either government or private philanthropic) so the fact that these organizations applied for and received grants when member organizations that applied were passed over, raises intriguing questions about potential conflicts of interest.

Whether or not these service organization’s respective members will hold them accountable is yet to be seen. The obvious clash is how a service organization can best serve members by directly competing for grant funds. It shouldn’t be surprising to see a bevy of grievances and non-compete clauses being proposed at points throughout the next season.

And can you blame an organization for being upset with their service organization if they ended up losing one or more employees as a result of not receiving a stimulus grant? Perhaps those groups should ask for a refund of the current season’s dues or, at the very least, insist on a reduction in dues equaling the amount lost.

If time allows, we’ll take a look at cross tabulated results for Opera recipients but in the meantime, the NEA website provides raw data for each of the following arts disciplines:

About Drew McManus

"I hear that every time you show up to work with an orchestra, people get fired." Those were the first words out of an executive's mouth after her board chair introduced us. That executive is now a dear colleague and friend but the day that consulting contract began with her orchestra, she was convinced I was a hatchet-man brought in by the board to clean house.

I understand where the trepidation comes from as a great deal of my consulting and technology provider work for arts organizations involves due diligence, separating fact from fiction, interpreting spin, as well as performance review and oversight. So yes, sometimes that work results in one or two individuals "aggressively embracing career change" but far more often than not, it reinforces and clarifies exactly what works and why.

In short, it doesn't matter if you know where all the bodies are buried if you can't keep your own clients out of the ground, and I'm fortunate enough to say that for more than 15 years, I've done exactly that for groups of all budget size from Qatar to Kathmandu.

For fun, I write a daily blog about the orchestra business, provide a platform for arts insiders to speak their mind, keep track of what people in this business get paid, help write a satirical cartoon about orchestra life, hack the arts, and love a good coffee drink.

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