Shared Platforms and Charitable Venture Organizations

A powerful possibility for a more resilient arts sector

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With explosive growth in the arts over the past two decades (demonstrated by a sharp increase in the number of organizations supported through operating funding from the Canada Council for the Arts), this report argues that “it is increasingly difficult to raise the resources required to support an ongoing organizational structure and keep it healthy”. Given this situation, the author proposes that shared administrative platforms, specifically charitable venture organizations, “could make a significant impact on improving the health of the arts sector”.

The report outlines how shared platforms work in the United States and in other not-for-profit sectors in Canada. The report highlights the key elements that might be included in a charitable venture organization (CVO) in the arts:

  • All projects belong to the CVO. The CVO takes the project in-house. The project and CVO are not separate legal entities.
  • The “CVO is liable for everything”.
  • “Project personnel are employees of the CVO”, which might improve compensation and benefit coverage, thereby “increasing retention and minimizing burn-out” in small arts organizations.
  • All project contributions belong to the CVO, which reports all revenues and expenditures.

Some of the key benefits of shared platforms include:

  • “Ability to offer tax receipts for individual and foundation donations.”
  • “Ability to provide arts entities with more effective technical assistance and administrative support.”
  • “Participation in shared services such as insurance, office space, capacity building, fundraising assistance, publicity and others.”

The report examines the advantages, legal implications, practical issues, financial considerations, and potential impacts related to three different ways of bringing charitable venture organizations to the Canadian arts sector:

  1. “Establish a Charitable Venture Organization specifically for arts organizations”.
  2. “Utilize existing administrative platforms such as arts service organizations or arts management providers”.
  3. “Existing arts organizations, in collaborative relationships, acting as shared platforms”.

The author recognizes that, in a complex system such as the arts sector, there is not “a simple formula to get it right”. She also argues that “it is now time to move from an exclusive focus on the health of the individual organization to include the health of the arts system. This will require a move away from hierarchical capacity (stand-alone organizations) to lateral capacity in relationships in order to develop networks of shared resources.”

Summary: 

With explosive growth in the arts over the past two decades, this report argues that “it is increasingly difficult to raise the resources required to support an ongoing organizational structure and keep it healthy”. Given this situation, the author proposes that shared administrative platforms, specifically charitable venture organizations, “could make a significant impact on improving the health of the arts sector”.