Mellon Foundation Announces $5 Million Commitment to Strengthen Organizational Health of Small and Midsize Arts Institutions

New York, NY, June 16, 2016 — The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation has announced a $5 million commitment to strengthen the organizational health of small and midsize arts institutions through a four-year pilot initiative. In collaboration with the National Performance Network/Visual Artists Network and Nonprofit Finance Fund, the pilot will provide comprehensive financial analysis and capacity building financial support to 14 organizations:  six arts presenters from the NPN network, and eight art conservation organizations.

Financially healthy arts and cultural heritage organizations are able to pursue innovation and take risks, both organizationally and artistically. Yet the problem of inadequate capitalization among small and midsize organizations is widespread, and the majority of fundraising activities focus on new projects rather than institutional resilience.

In recent years, the Mellon Foundation has sought new ways to reinforce its commitment to artmaking, scholarship, and conservation through initiatives that focus on remediating systemic financial challenges of entire sectors.

“Over the next four years, these 14 organizations will receive expert assistance and access to significant capital investments to help strengthen their business models and fundraising strategies, with the goal of also informing shifts in the arts sector at large,” said Susan Feder, Mellon’s program officer for the performing arts within the Foundation’s Arts & Cultural Heritage program.

The first phase of Mellon’s pilot initiative began in 2015, when the Nonprofit Finance Fund conducted a preliminary organizational assessment of 50 performing and visual arts presenters and ten art conservation service organizations. Eligibility for continued participation was determined based on each organization’s capacity to manage resources, implement organizational changes as appropriate, work with consultants, and participate in convenings with other cohort members.

Grantees are currently undergoing deep organizational analyses, and are convening with their cohorts for leadership clinics. With guidance from the Nonprofit Finance Fund, organizations will engage in business plan modeling, market forecasting, succession and new leadership planning, capacity-building strategies, and counseling on operating reserves, risk capital funds, and loan programs.

"This program, focusing on small and midsize organizations, will heighten awareness of how organizations should be funded and operated in order to be capitalized for sustainability," stated Janet Brown, president & CEO of Grantmakers in the Arts, which, through its National Capitalization Project, has explored resolutions to the issue of under-capitalization in the nonprofit arts field.

Art Conservation Organizations
Art conservation organizations, including regional centers and professional service organizations, are an integral part of America’s cultural ecosystem, but face vulnerability due to their reliance on unpredictable revenue streams and a consistent decline in funding for preservation, among other challenges.

“Our intention is to look holistically at the state of conservation infrastructure across the nation,” said Alison Gilchrest, the program officer responsible for art history, conservation, and museums within Mellon’s Arts & Cultural Heritage program. “Mellon has a long history of supporting the field of art conservation. Through this initiative we are acknowledging that the sector as a whole has an opportunity to be stronger, more collaborative, and more adaptable to shifting market forces.”

Participating art conservation service organizations are:

  • The American Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works (Washington, DC)
  • The Foundation for the American Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works (Washington, DC)
  • Balboa Art Conservation Center (San Diego, CA)
  • Conservation Center for Art and Historic Artifacts (Philadelphia, PA)
  • Intermuseum Conservation Association (Cleveland, OH)
  • Midwest Art Conservation Center (Minneapolis, MN)
  • Northeast Document Conservation Center (Andover, MA)
  • Voices in Contemporary Art (New York, NY)

Performing and Visual Arts Presenters
According to the Nonprofit Finance Fund’s 2015 State of the Nonprofit Sector Arts Survey Results, 39 percent of performing arts organizations persistently report that the amount of cash they have available at any given time would cover less than three months of operations.  Another 40 percent have less than six months of cash. These unpredictable revenue streams also limit the ability of organizations to take programmatic and artistic risks.

“Participating arts organizations make important contributions to their communities and far beyond, but face challenges stemming from chronic underresourcing, unpredictable business cycles, and changing demographics,” said Feder.

The organizations selected to participate are: 

  • Carpetbag Theatre (Knoxville, TN)
  • Central District Forum for Arts & Ideas (Seattle, WA)
  • Junebug Productions (New Orleans, LA)
  • Movimiento de Arte y Cultura Latino Americana (San Jose, CA)
  • The Myrna Loy Center (Helena, MT)
  • Su Teatro (Denver, CO)

Related Initiatives
Mellon’s previous initiatives to build financial capacity among small and midsize organizations include a $1.1 million revolving loan fund for the Foundation’s Arts and Cultural Heritage grantees—originally created to support vulnerable organizations as they struggled to respond to the 2008 economic crisis; a 2007 organizational health analysis for 18 modern dance grantees; and research into sector-wide business model trends. The Foundation has also funded a number of operating reserves on a case-by-case basis. 

About the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation
Founded in 1969, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation endeavors to strengthen, promote, and, where necessary, defend the contributions of the humanities and the arts to human flourishing and to the well-being of diverse and democratic societies by supporting exemplary institutions of higher education and culture as they renew and provide access to an invaluable heritage of ambitious, path-breaking work. Additional information is available at

About the National Performance Network/Visual Artists Network
NPN/VAN is a relationship-based network of presenters and exhibitors that serve and connect diverse cultural organizations, artists and communities. Annually, NPN/VAN provides over 1.5 million dollars in support to artists through its network of 77 Partners. NPN/VAN generates paid opportunities for artists to create, exhibit, and tour work to diverse communities across the globe. Partners facilitate collaborations that inspire artistic experimentation, honor cultural heritage, and promote social change. 

About the Nonprofit Finance Fund
Nonprofit Finance Fund unlocks the potential of mission-driven organizations through tailored investments, strategic advice and accessible insights. Founded in 1980, NFF helps organizations connect money to mission effectively through established and innovative approaches to social sector finance. A leading community development financial institution with over $300 million in assets under management, NFF has provided $575 million in financing and access to additional capital in support of over $1.5 billion in projects for thousands of organizations nationwide. NFF's Pay for Success team has worked with organizations across the country to help them evaluate opportunities, explore partnerships, and advance agreements. NFF also curates the Pay for Success Learning Hub, NFF is headquartered in New York City and serves clients from five offices across the country.

For more information, contact

Laura Washington