My fourth and final semester at the Yale School of Management has begun, and classes-wise, it’s looking to be the most interesting yet. I’m taking Endowment Management with the folks from the legendary Yale Investments Office, which has performed in the top one percent of institutional investors over the past two decades; Philanthropic Foundations with Jack Meyers, President and CEO of the Rockefeller Archive Center and former Deputy Director of the Getty Trust; Microfinance with Tony Sheldon, executive director of SOM’s Program on Social Enterprise; a class on Recording Arts in the Sound Design program at the Drama School; and a Nonprofit Organizations Clinic at the Law School, designed to help new organizations get off the ground. I have some exciting projects cooking for the second half of the semester which I’ll write more about later.

Up on Capitol Hill, the Obama stimulus package has passed both the House and the Senate — but there’s just one problem: the Senate version doesn’t include the $50 million for the NEA that was in the original design of the bill (and that made it through the House). Americans for the Arts has set up another trusty tool to email your Congresscritters here. If you have any time at all, I strongly urge you to use it — few would debate that what the arts need most right now is cold, hard cash, and $50 million is less than one ten-thousandth of the package that Congress is about to dump on America.

Here are some other news and notes from around the web:

  • Veteran staffer and Yale Drama School grad Patrice Walker Powell has been named Acting Chairwoman of the NEA.
  • Matthew Guerrieri calculates how much of a bailout the arts really deserve in the stimulus package, using the assistance afforded to the auto industry late last year as a benchmark. How does 12.4 billion smackers sound to you, America?
  • Robin Pogrebin in the NY Times has a round-up of recent arts-related developments on Capitol Hill and names some other possibilities for NEA Chair, including Wynton Marsalis, Agnes Gund, Richard J. Cohen, and Bill Ivey. Musical America’s Susan Elliott gives the inside story of the meeting between the arts service organization lobby and the Obama transition team earlier this month.
  • That pesky Secretary for the Arts business gets some more bad press. Isaac rebuts.
  • Andrew Taylor talks about perverse incentives in the arts.
  • Mayor Mike was the leading individual donor in the US last year, handing out $235 million to recipients including a ton of arts organizations in NYC. Not all of the top donations by individuals last year took the form of money, however. According to the Slate 60, the Harvard Art Museum received a gift of $45 million from Emily Rauh Pulitzer along with 31 works of art that, according to the museum, were worth four times as much as the cash, bringing the total value of the gift into the $225 million range.
  • Via Tactical Philanthropy, the Chronicle of Philanthropy has a new Innovations column highlighting new and interesting funding models for nonprofits. It’s normally available by subscription only, but the first one is free. Also, Bill Gates on the role of foundations.
  • Lucy Bernholz is the latest blogger to get on the twitter bandwagon.

    I’ve been invited to comment on people’s books, slide shows, and discussions, been offered condolences by people I’ve never met, had poems sent to me from friends in other countries, songs recommended to me, and conferences brought to my attention. I’ve been asked to participate in a radio program and a speakers bureau, invited to judge a business plan competition, and discovered that communicating with direct messages in twitter beats email hands-down for some conversations. I’ve also found that folks too hesitant about their writing to comment on blogs will opine away in twitter – being confined to 140 characters puts the Ralph Ellisons among us on the same footing as those who find pain in writing grocery lists. Because twitter feeds into my facebook page I’ve also reconnected with three friends from high school.

    I haven’t joined yet…I’m kind of scared. Anyone out there have experiences to share?

  • The guru of the aforementioned Yale Ivestments Office, David Swensen, co-wrote an op-ed in the Times this week arguing that it’s time for newspapers to move to a nonprofit model. It’s almost like he’s been reading my blog:

    If we can agree that journalism does provide an indispensable public good, in the form of in-depth, factual information not available anywhere else, I can’t help but see it gravitating toward a contributed income model in the coming years. No matter what steps the current industry giants take to shore up revenue streams, whether it be the Washington Post buying Kaplan or the New York Times Co. grabbing a piece of New England Sports Ventures, their core journalism operations will remain loss leaders, and thus vulnerable to cost-cutting pressures. Absent a significant change in industry dynamics, I would not be surprised if nonprofit journalism models become more common in coming years.

    Seriously, though, I do think that nonprofit status represents the most plausible, if not the only, path to salvation for our nation’s most respected news operations. (To be clear, this is not about saving the newspaper as a form, as if that were any more important than saving microfiche. This is about saving the concept of a news-gathering institution with the infrastructure to conduct the kind of original investigative and large-scale journalism that blogs and citizen reporters, even the best of them, can’t replicate on anything like a consistent basis.) Of course, this is still a very controversial idea, provoking responses like this one from Allison Fine: “Times Editorial = Downright Stupid.” I’ll let you be the judge:

    So, newspapers are a sacred trust that now require tax exempt status to survive according to the authors, David Swensen and Michael Schmidt, neither of whom are journalists or nonprofit professionals. Instead one manages the financial portfolio at Yale that lost nearly 30% of it’s value last year and the other is a “financial analyst” whatever that means. [….] I am not a journalist or an expert on that subject

    Aside from pot calling kettle black, Swensen and Schmidt are in fact nonprofit professionals, given that they work for Yale University, which last I checked is a nonprofit organization. Furthermore, it’s hard to see the endowment losing 30% of its value as some kind of indictment when the rest of the market has lost 40% over the same period. Fine does have a point that raising money to support a $5 billion endowment is probably a pipe dream, but I think Swensen’s point was more that we have endowments that are bigger than that already, so it’s not like the idea is completely absurd.

  • Sometimes the intersection of politics and the creative industries can be unintentionally hilarious. (see pic at the top of this post)
  • Other times, intentionally so (and poignant, too). Well done, Bronx Zoo.
  • Will

    On the subject of non-profit newspapers: This seems to be getting a spate of attention. In addition to your link to the NYT, we have Matt Yglesias at Think Progress
    covering the same territory, with a link to a similar piece, also at NYT [hmmm, do we see a pattern here?] by Steve Coll

    Could be it’s just a matter of time now, and how they work out the details.

  • Ian David Moss

    Thanks, these are great links! Although the Coll piece is at the New Yorker, not the NY Times. :)

    Yglesias has an important point about the “hard news” operations taking up only a small part of a newspaper’s expenses. The focus goes on them because it’s the least profitable of a newspaper’s operations: foreign bureaus and correspondents are expensive, and no one wants to advertise opposite the pages covering the Gaza conflict, you know. But yes, no one needs to be endowing the op-ed pages or the travel section. (I’m sure the fast-dwindling ranks of paid music critics wouldn’t mind some support for the arts pages, though.)