MacArthur Arts and Culture Loan Fund Reflections November 14, 2023

Arts and culture play an integral role in supporting communities. For many arts organizations, however, access to the funding, financing, and financial management resources necessary to sustain programming can be difficult to secure. That’s why, since 2009, the MacArthur Arts and Culture Loan Fund (ACLF) has helped small- and medium-sized arts and culture organizations in Chicago to manage uneven cash flows and strengthen financial capacity. Administered by IFF since 2016 in partnership with BDO, the program has provided dozens of organizations the opportunity to access an operating line of credit, as well as financial management workshops, customized coaching, technical assistance on financial projects, and assistance incorporating diversity, equity, and inclusion into their operations.

Hear from several ACLF participants about what they took away from the experience, including one— Experimental Sound Studio—that reflected on operationalizing diversity, equity, and inclusion practices within the arts sector:

Debra Kerr · President and CEO, Intuit

Reimagining What a Modern Museum Can Be

“We’ve participated in the training series twice. The first time was before the pandemic, around when we refinanced with IFF. More recently, a new set of Intuit staff members took the course. Like many nonprofit professionals, they didn’t formally study accounting, and they now have a shared and more thorough understanding of how nonprofit finance works.

The team has applied what they learned to communicate our financial picture to the board, as well. One of our perennial challenges is helping board members grasp the vagaries of nonprofit accounting. The training and one-on-one coaching we received from BDO armed the team with excellent tools that we can use: graphs, pie charts, and slides.”

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Joanna Furnans · Executive Director, Chicago Dancemakers Forum

Supporting a Broad Range of Chicago’s Dance Artists

“One thing that stands out was an informative discussion about calculating the true cost of programs. It was huge for the BDO team and program participants to acknowledge that nonprofit arts organizations have been underestimating and underreporting how much it truly costs to do the work that we do.

If we only report the programmatic costs, and don’t include general operating and administrative costs like our internet service, insurance policies, payroll fees, development activities, and staff salaries, we’re shooting ourselves in the foot. We can’t address issues like pay equity if we continue to uphold the pervasive but unsustainable expectation for arts and culture nonprofits to just scrape by.”

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Wendy Mateo and Lorena Diaz · Co-artistic Directors, Teatro Vista

Crain's Chicago Business Op-Ed: The Business Survival Case for Arming Arts Leaders with Financial Tools and Resources

“Our situation reflects one of the key challenges we see in Chicago’s arts and culture industry: leadership transitions and their impact on organizations’ sustainability. Like us, many incoming arts and culture leaders must quickly learn and navigate things like budget planning, staffing costs, facility leasing/ownership and more, often without access to the necessary education and tools to help steward a sustainable business. Additionally, many incoming leaders are new to their organizations and may not know the true cost of programming.

That’s where the MacArthur Arts and Culture Loan Fund comes in.”

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Olivia Junell, Co-Director and Nancy Harris, Founder and CEO · Experimental Sound Studio and Restart Consulting

Organizational Commitment to Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Must Begin with Intentionality

“We went in thinking we will define diversity, equity and inclusion for Experimental Sound Studio. Week after week, it became apparent that this was a constant conversation about our DEI definition and how we implement those values successfully within our organization.

If we are really going to be serious about DEI as an integral part to our operations in arts nonprofits, then we have to start treating it like we do the books and fundraising and all of these other components that we know are essential and that we regularly call experts in as part of our practice.”

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