Funders Statements

Statements, letters, and op-eds from arts funders and community leaders in support of artists, arts organizations, and the arts at large.

ArtPlace Presidents’ Write a Joint Letter in Support of the NEA

Following the Trump Administration’s 2019 budget request that proposes the elimination of the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), among other cultural agencies, the foundation presidents who fund ArtPlace released a statement in support of cultural federal agencies and their role in strengthening communities.

“If we lose federal agencies like the National Endowment for the Arts, we will not only lose significant direct investments in communities across all 50 states, we also lose the infrastructure that brings us together as one United States of America,” write the letter’s authors.

This statement follows a letter sent by the Grantmakers in the Arts (GIA) board of directors impressing upon Congress the urgent need to support appropriations funding for the NEA, the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) at the highest levels proposed by either the House or Senate’s 2018 appropriations bills, and to reject outright the elimination of these agencies as proposed by the budget request.

Read the full letter here.

Read GIA’s letter.

GIA’s Board Asks Congress to Support Cultural Agencies at Risk in the President’s 2019 Proposed Budget

The board of directors of Grantmakers in the Arts (GIA) has requested that Congress support appropriations funding for the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) at the highest levels proposed by either the House or Senate’s 2018 appropriations bills, and to reject the elimination of these agencies as proposed by the Trump Administration’s 2019 budget request.

Read GIA’s letter here.

Larry Kramer, President of the Hewlett Foundation, Ponders on Today’s Philanthropy

Larry Kramer, president of The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, penned a letter in which he reflects on philanthropy after, what he calls, “a year as tumultuous and unsettling as 2017.” Kramer points out the spirit of a funder’s work, the responsibility to steward tactfully a foundation’s resources, and the adaptations and responses required to navigate changes in the political landscape in the US and abroad.

Read GIA’s news post on this letter.

It has not been my usual practice to write annual letters—they feel at odds with the foundation’s commitment to “operating in the modest, low-key style of our founders.” But after a year as tumultuous and unsettling as 2017, a few words seem appropriate. Not to cheerlead or sound a clarion call to the barricades; everyone working in the social sector understands that extraordinary events are afoot and fundamental values are being tested. What matters now, is not rhetoric, but how we meet these tests—substantively, and on the ground.This is especially true for a funder. We don’t do the work that matters: we support other people and organizations who do. Yet that must be balanced against our responsibility to steward the foundation’s resources wisely—a duty that lies here, with us, and that cannot be outsourced to others. How, then, should we weigh what our grantees say and want against our own best judgment about what’s happening and what we should do? How do we find the right balance between change and continuity? That’s a difficult question in the best of circumstances, so the very least we can do is to explain clearly the adjustments we’re making, and why.

We did a lot of adjusting on the fly this past year, learning and adapting to changes in the landscape while trying not to lose sight of principles that have guided us well for more than 50 years. That’s particularly challenging at times like these, when so much that we have taken for granted—shortsightedly it seems—is under threat.

I am thinking especially of democratic institutions, both in the United States and abroad. Having spent most of my adult life studying and writing about U.S. constitutional history, it’s hard to watch the cracks that have emerged continue to widen, even harder to stomach the hate-filled tribalism that passes for public discourse these days. That much, ironically, seems to be shared across the political spectrum. Sometimes, it feels like it’s the only thing shared.

When cynicism or hopelessness creeps in, I remind myself of what inspired Bill and Flora Hewlett to create this charitable foundation: their belief in the capacity of people to do good and to become better. Certainly there is evil in the world, and people can do incomprehensibly awful things. Institutions run by individuals acting in complete good faith can commit, or ignore, terrible wrongs. Our task is to help rectify these wrongs—something we do motivated not by anger, an understandable but unhelpful reaction, but rather from a firm conviction that we can all learn, can all change, can all become better. The work of philanthropy rests, and in the end depends, on this abiding faith in the dignity of individuals and the possibility of progress.

The Hewlett Foundation’s approach to philanthropy flows directly from this hope and ethos. The Hewletts may not have foreseen things like climate change or the rise of social media, but they built into the DNA of their foundation some enduring values that continue to guide us and to which we continue to aspire.

Topping the list, our first Guiding Principle, is a commitment to “seek to bring about meaningful, socially beneficial change in the fields in which we work.” That principle was on my mind a great deal in 2017. As I have written elsewhere, when it comes to complex social problems, meaningful social change is not achieved by quick fixes. Effective philanthropy requires becoming part of and helping to nurture an ecosystem of grantees, beneficiaries, and other funders whose efforts, cumulatively and over time, can deliver lasting impact. This means making long-term commitments, while leaving room for goals and strategies to adapt and change with the times.

Our emphasis in 2017 was heavy on the adaptation side of that equation. Changes in the political landscape, both in the U.S. and abroad, threatened progress and exacerbated problems we’ve been working on for years. We responded by allocating more than $60 million in available flexible funds to bolster our most vulnerable strategies. These extra funds, spent on top of ongoing grantmaking of roughly $400 million, enabled us to pivot responsibly and try new things while our grantees adjusted, altering their own strategies or making new efforts.

As 2018 begins, I want to talk about strategic adjustments we made, and what lies ahead, in three areas: women’s reproductive health in the U.S.climate change, and democratic dysfunction. After that, I’ll close with a few words about developments in a fourth area—diversity, equity and inclusion—that was a matter of concern long before the events of last year but that has become ever more meaningful in their wake.

 

Read the full letter here.

Open Letter from Tim Delaney: Tax Bill Will Hurt Nonprofits and Communities

Tim Delaney, president and CEO of the National Council of Nonprofits, has published an open letter against the tax bill currently under consideration in Congress:

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act changes personal exemptions and the standard deduction in a way that effectively denies 95 percent of taxpayers any tax incentive for giving back to their communities. The amount to which tax incentives drive donations can be disputed, but surely it will cut revenues some. Indeed, economists at the Tax Policy Center at the Urban Institute report that the tax change would reduce giving by $13 billion to $20 billion every year. The same group estimates that changes in the estate tax will reduce giving to charitable purposes by another $4 billion.

Read the full letter from Tim Delaney.

Arts and Culture in Dangerous Times: Rip Rapson’s Address to the 2017 GIA Conference

At the closing plenary of the 2017 GIA Conference, Rip Rapson spoke on how The Kresge Foundation has reasserted its values and called on arts funders and cultural workers to continue to put their own values into action.

“In no time in my memory has it been more important for arts and culture to become part of a larger movement of social justice — helping strengthen the alliances necessary to speak and advance those truths of equity, fairness, and justice that we know to be inviolable.”

Read the full transcript.

Funders Respond to Charlottesville

The Chronicle of Philanthropy has compiled a list of statements from nonprofit and foundation leaders following the events in Charlottesville, VA, including GIA member Grant Oliphant of The Heinz Endowments. In addition to these, other arts foundation leaders have voiced their responses:

“Even as brazen displays of hatred rightfully appall us, subtle, everyday acts of racism and bigotry need to be rendered just as unacceptable. This is our shared responsibility.”
— Board Chair Meghan Binger Brown and President Kate Wolford, The McKnight Foundation

“Anti-Semitism, like racism, misogyny, homophobia and other forms of hate, are alive and well in American political discourse.”
Sharon Alpert, The Nathan Cummings Foundation

“Whether through our grantmaking, other ways we can best support our partners, or the use of our own voice, we will remain vigilant about how we can play a role, along with many others, to ensure that hate does not prevail.”
President James Canales, Barr Foundation

“Where we stand will define us for generations to come.”
CEO Fred Blackwell, The San Francisco Foundation

“Our country’s public officials, thinkers, and artists must respond to this moment by telling the full, unvarnished history.”
President Earl Lewis, Andrew W. Mellon Foundation

James Canales on Charlottesville: We Must All Speak Out

Barr Foundation President James Canales wrote a statement in response to recent news of racist violence in Charlottesville, Virginia and President Trump’s subsequent comments:

We at the Barr Foundation add our unequivocal voice to the growing chorus that explicitly renounces the violent expressions of hate and the vile racism and bigotry that we witnessed in Charlottesville last weekend. Of course, such sentiments are not isolated to Virginia, and with a President who increasingly empowers these fringe actors, we will see more of it, even in Boston this coming weekend.

That we find ourselves in this moment only reinforces the fact that our work is far from complete on our way to fulfilling this country’s promise of “e pluribus unum.” It is a moment that should lead all of us to decide what we should do, how we can engage, and where we can commit energy and resources to demonstrate unambiguously that there are not “many sides” to moral imperatives such as fighting racism and combatting bigotry in all of its forms.

Read the full statement.

Starving the Arts: How the White House Budget Threatens Creativity

The CEO of Kickstarter, a crowdfunding platform which is “arguably the largest arts funding organization in the private sector,” published an op-ed in support of the National Endowment for the Arts:

When a Washington Post headline [in 2013] declared “Kickstarter raises more money for artists than the NEA,” I felt both humility and apprehension. We were mentioned in the same breath as the National Endowment for the Arts, an organization whose mission we admire deeply. But I worried our success might be seen as an argument that the private sector alone should address arts funding.

Read the full article on The Hill.

Pam Breaux: Public & Private Arts Funding Are Better Together

Pam Breaux, CEO of National Assembly of State Arts Agencies, argues that public and private funding are both necessary to fund arts and culture in America:

There is no question as to the public value of the arts and, to be clear, the ongoing debate is not whether the arts have a public benefit, but whether the responsibility to fund the arts should lie with the federal government or private philanthropies. Abundant research points to a clear answer: the private sector alone cannot fund the arts.

Public and private funders have significantly different mandates, and a solely philanthropic arts support model would leave many American communities behind.

Read the full article.

GIA’s Letter to Congress in Support of America’s Cultural Vitality

On Monday, June 26, GIA’s board of directors sent a letter to all members of Congress on behalf of GIA’s membership in support of continued funding of the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB), and the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS). GIA has also published an advocacy memo on Arts Funders Respond that provides information on how to contact members of the congressional appropriations committees and subcommittees that oversee funding for these agencies.

Read GIA’s letter to Congress.
Read the advocacy memo.