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Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Should arts groups and nonprofits set the pace for equity?

This new report from Boston studies how nonprofits can become “anchor institutions,” pacesetters for community goals. The idea is borrowed from eds and meds, large institutions who can align with community goals (job opportunities, equity, voices for the voiceless, real estate, purchasing policies) and get businesses to come along. How about applying this to the arts?

This anchor strategy is spreading across the nation and is almost certain to show up soon in Seattle, as the debate over arts groups paying overtime foretells. The study shows that not a lot of progress has been made for this idea, and that there are inherent limitations to what hard-pressed, mission-focused arts groups can realistically do. Here’s one warning from the report:

“Indeed, one challenge facing nonprofits—in arts, universities, and hospitals alike—is that while nonprofits are supposed to serve the entire community, donors and boards of trustees typically are more elite. It is therefore not surprising that, absent an explicit equity focus, nonprofit institutions in their actions will often reflect the groups that fund and govern them. Too often, the result can be to deepen resident displacement and gentrification, rather than ameliorate it.”

Image by Tom und Nicki Löschner from Pixabay

David Brewster
David Brewster, a founding member of Post Alley, has a long career in publishing, having founded Seattle Weekly, Sasquatch Books, and Crosscut.com. His civic ventures have been Town Hall Seattle and FolioSeattle.

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