In order to inform the recent WESTAF symposium on state arts advocacy, blogger and former California Arts Council director Barry Hessenius was commissioned to conduct a 50-state survey of state arts-advocacy organizations. The draft findings were initially presented at the WESTAF symposium on the status and future of state arts advocacy organizations. Following is a brief summary of Hessenius' initial findings:
The state of state arts advocacy organizations runs the gamut from well financed, well led, stable, successful organizations to non-existent or nearly non-existent efforts. Several states across the country are in periods--and some of them in extended periods--of reorganization. One key variable related to the success of the organizations appears to be the strength of their leadership. Without an effective paid or volunteer leader, sustaining an ongoing advocacy operation is extremely difficult. Another key factor in the success of state arts-advocacy organizations is the presence of a stable stream of funding that can support the cause.
A rather concerning finding was that fully 25--or half--of the 50 advocacy organizations could not be reached after two phone calls and at least one email contact. In about half of these difficult-to-reach instances, a small advocacy effort existed; however, a person seeking to contact the organizations would encounter some difficulty.
The key finding of the survey was that state arts-advocacy organizations could be classified into four separate groups. The groups are:
- Fully Functional: This group contains 12 state arts advocacy organizations that have the following attributes: a) at least one full-time staff person; b) the engagement of a lobbyist or the presence of a professional in-house lobbyist; c) a stable budget of $100,000 or more; d) either a 501(c)(3) or 501(c)(4) destination or both; and e) a history of strong board or staff leadership.
- Operating: This group of 10 state arts-advocacy organizations is characterized by a lack of one or more of the attributes found in the "fully functional" category. The most common difference is that the organizations classified as operating entities often have a single part-time staff member.
- Limited Function: This group of six state arts-advocacy organizations offers limited services and could be considered modest in their organizational effectiveness. Barely functioning, several of these organizations are in the midst of relaunching dormant arts advocacy efforts.
- Non-Functioning: This group of 22 states has no functioning state arts-advocacy organization.
WESTAF will work with Barry Hessenius to complete and distribute a full report and analysis related to this survey in January of 2016.