Professor of Public Affairs and Fine ArtsDirector of the Portfolio Program in Arts and Cultural Management and EntrepreneurshipSenior Fellow
Why is it Important That We Continue? Some Nonprofit Organizations Rethink Their Value in Challenging Times
A brief of the Building Audiences for Sustainability: Research and Evaluation study, supported by funding from the Wallace Foundation.
Millennials are Not a Monolith: Experiences from One Group of Performing Arts Organizations’ Audience-Building Efforts
Among the 25 arts organizations participating in Wallace’s Building Audiences for Sustainability initiative, the most frequently chosen demographic target group for audience-building efforts was “millennials.” But as the organizations began to create new programs and marketing strategies geared toward bringing these younger patrons in the door, they almost universally found themselves grappling with a group that was more complex and multifaceted than they’d originally thought.
National statistics continue to show stagnant or declining attendance across many forms in the nonprofit arts. Less understood, however, is how arts organizations might use data and market research to cultivate new audiences and strengthen bonds with current attendees.
Are foundations with set periods for spending down their assets more effective as grantmakers than their peers who are established to exist in perpetuity? This is a longstanding discussion among philanthropists, with an article on the topic by Ray Madoff and Rob Reich published just yesterday in the Chronicle of Philanthropy. But Dr. Francie Ostrower, who has done extensive and in-depth research into this aspect of foundations, has some answers that may surprise readers.
Francie Ostrower, RGK Center Professor of Public Affairs and Fine Arts, submitted a response to Paul Brest's essay entitled, "Strategic Philanthropy and Its Discontents". Brest's essay and associated responses were based on a discussion that took place at a symposium sponsored by Stanford University's Center on Philanthropy and Civil Society and the
Two reports on foundation “sunsetting” by the RGK Center’s Francie Ostrower are available from the Aspen Institute. The reports, which provide important lessons and a guide to decision-making for foundations that “sunset” or “spend down” and close rather than continue in perpetuity, were released by the Aspen Institute’s Program on Philanthropy and Social Innovation. The reports are based on a research study conducted by Dr. Ostrower with a grant awarded by the Aspen Institute.
Sunsetting: A Framework for Foundation Life as Well as Death uses detailed case studies to understand why and how foundations decide to terminate. By discussing the common themes, challenges, and opportunities associated with sunsetting, the report shows how limiting a foundation’s life can be a strategy for innovative and effective philanthropy.
Foundation Sunset: A Decision-Making Guide is a practical companion piece drawing on the case studies that shows how donors and trustees can use sunsetting as a philanthropic strategy consistent with their values, circumstances, and motivations. The report serves as a useful guide to help donors and trustees design a blueprint for shutting down.
Trustees of Culture: Power, Wealth, and Status on Elite Arts Boards
Cultural trusteeship is a subject that fascinates those who wonder about the relationship between power and culture. What compels the wealthy to serve on the boards of fine arts institutions? How do they exercise their influence as trustees, and how does this affect the way arts institutions operate? To find out, Francie Ostrower conducted candid personal interviews with 76 trustees drawn from two opera companies and two art museums in the United States.
Her new study demonstrates that members of elite arts boards walk a fine line between maintaining their status and serving the needs of the large-scale organizations they oversee. As class members whose status depends in part on the prestige of the boards on which they serve, trustees seek to perpetuate arts boards as exclusive elite enclaves. But in response to pressures to increase and diversify the audiences for arts institutions, elite board members act in a surprisingly open manner in terms of organizational accessibility and operations.
Written with clarity and grace, Trustees of Culture will contribute significantly to our understanding of organizational governance; the politics of fundraising; elite arts participation and philanthropy; as well as the consequences of wider social policies that continue to emphasize private financial support. Ostrower's study will prove to be indispensable reading for not just sociologists of culture, but anyone interested in how the arts are financially and institutionally supported.
Why the Wealthy Give: The Culture of Elite Philanthropy
Through a series of candid personal interviews with nearly one hundred donors, Why the Wealthy Give offers an in-depth look at the world of elite philanthropy. Francie Ostrower focuses on the New York City area, with its high concentration of affluent donors, to explore both the motivations of individual donors and the significance of philanthropy for the culture and organization of elite groups. In so doing, she offers an account of why the wealthy give that also provides insight into the nature of elite culture, status, identity, and cohesion. Emphasizing the diversity of philanthropy, the book also shows how and why different types of donors support different causes. It further demonstrates how, in the face of considerable change, elite philanthropy has adapted and therefore endured. A timely discussion explores the ways in which elite donors view the respective roles of government and philanthropy. Why the Wealthy Give shows that elite philanthropy involves far more than writing a check. The wealthy take philanthropy and adapt it into an entire way of life that serves as a vehicle for the social and cultural life of their class. This is reflected in the widespread popularity of educational and cultural causes among donors. At the same time, Ostrower finds divergent patterns of giving that reflect alternative sources of donor identity, such as religion, ethnicity, and gender, and explains why certain kinds of donors are more or less likely to diverge from the prestige hierarchy of their class in their philanthropy.