It’s Time For Hero Donors To Give Like It’s 1984

If there were ever a time for foundations and large donors to step up, it’s now.

It’s striking to see how little we’re hearing about these funders amidst public statements of planned health care benefits cancellations during expected peak times of the coronavirus outbreak.

An article in the 3/31/2020 edition of the Washington Post examines how tough things are right now for New York City arts organizations. And while there’s reference to an effort from a group of private philanthropies pooling resources to create a $75 million fund for NYC arts orgs, you won’t find the word “donor” anywhere else in the article.

On Twitter, Vu Lee started calling out funders who are behaving like the antithesis of heroes. After coming across several instances, he started cataloging bad behavior using #CrappyFunders.

But not to be a total downer, he started tracking instances of hero behavior with #AwesomeFunders.

I encourage everyone to submit your encounters.

This is one topic where there’s no such thing as too much transparency. And who knows, if a funder engaging in what Lee defines as #CrappyFunders sees the error of their ways, maybe they’ll swoop in and help a performing arts org keep from shutting down health care benefits in the middle of a pandemic. If so, they’ll certainly qualify for #HeroFunder status in my book.

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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