As we look to the year ahead, many Nonprofiteers see January as a time to pivot and revisit last year’s strategies. A few weeks ago, The National Council of Nonprofits released a timely white paper on 2014 Nonprofit Trends to Watch (since then, other nonprofit supporters have written forecasts, see here and here). The trends highlight what to expect in the Social Sector and the implications for nonprofit staff, boards, donors and community leaders.
Through the lens of Art in Praxis – a space where art and culture are at the center of social change – I want to add another stakeholder group: Artists.
Nonprofits, this is an opportunity to leverage the arts to amplify your mission. Artists, this is an opportunity to produce socially engaged art for clients that can influence people and policy. (We design experiences like The Match for this very reason).
The National Council of Nonprofits lists 11 Trends to Watch. I’m making the case for engaging artists around #3 and #11.
- The Resource Squeeze
- The Upward Spiral of Need
- Advancing Missions Through Advocacy
- Increased Scrutiny
- Transparency About Outcomes
- Owning Our Costs
- Pictures That Tell Stories
- Online Giving
- The Cloud Imperative
- The Leadership Challenge
- What Is A “Nonprofit” – New Financing Structures And Confusion
#3 Advancing Missions Through Advocacy
Whether it is funding for a project or policy reform, elected officials make decisions every day that can either create a supportive environment for the change you are working towards or hinder that work. Advocacy is not limited to giving scripted testimony, taking meetings with elected officials or pilgrimages to City Hall. Creatively operating outside of those institutions to influence policy should also be a part of your strategy and campaign planning.
Good ideas to learn from:
- A Flashmob. See Multicultural HIV/AIDS Network’s youth-led awareness campaign.
- Bringing performance to political institutions. See Artist Amanda Palmer’s performance at United Nation’s Day to End Violence Against Women.
- Do you have examples? Share them!
#7 Pictures That Tell Stories
What is the visual history of your organization? If an outsider (and potential supporter) were to look at only the images associated with your organization, what story would they make up about your work? Your impact?
Never underestimate the power of visual curation and imagery. Partnering with visual artists, graphic designers and photographers to tell a clear, evocative story can put the issues you are raising awareness about in front of larger audiences. Just ask Sasha Bruce Youthworks and Photographer Graeme King about their Teen Parenting Perspectives exhibit.
A quick note about stories. Q: Who do you think has the best stories about your organization?
A: The people your mission sets out to work for and with. Invite them to share. Incorporate their feedback into your visuals.
Good ideas to learn from:
- Children’s books written by youth. A great way to demonstrate the importance of literacy programs. See Reach Incorporated.
- A Photo exhibit featuring work inspired by your mission. See Critical Exposure’s “Zoom In: National Lens, Local Focus” campaign and exhibit.
- Eye-Popping, Data- Filled Infographics. See one of Fast Company’s “Most Compelling Infographics of 2013″ about Shark Attacks (yes, shark attacks).
You know the trends for 2014, now plan. Host an Artist in Residence.
Your work may not call for a full-time staffed creative position. Consider an Artist in Residence. If you are interested in developing a custom Artist Residency to move your mission, increase impact an engagement, contact us. Art in Praxis designs short-term and long-term Artist Residency programs that are connected to your strategic vision, outcomes and financial planning.