Bloomberg Philanthropies to Invest in SF Arts Organizations

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(Courtesy of Bloomberg Philanthropies)

Yesterday, New York-based Bloomberg Philanthropies announced a plan to invest $30 million in nearly 300 small- and mid-sized arts organizations across six cities nationwide. San Francisco, along with Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Detroit and Los Angeles, is a lucky recipient of the nonprofit's Arts Innovation and Management (AIM) program. Successful recipients (applications are accepted by invitation only) will receive unrestricted general operating support, along with a medley of training workshops for the growth and well-being of the organization.

Why is this big news? As funding opportunities from both government and the private sector decrease, arts nonprofits find themselves strapped for cash, struggling to cobble together their operating budgets from individual donors. This kind of fundraising is labor-intensive and often fruitless, reliant on personal relationships that can take years to develop.

The few grants that remain available to arts organizations are often restricted -- earmarked for a specific program, project or time frame. Bloomberg Philanthropies' promise of "unrestricted general operating support" means the PG&E bill gets paid, the copy machine has toner and all the tiny details that make a nonprofit functional are covered. Recipients can use the funds "to address their greatest needs."

In tandem with the grant money, the AIM initiative provides fundraising, audience development and board engagement training over the course of two years. The program piloted in New York City, supporting 245 organizations from 2011 to 2013. According to Bloomberg Philanthropies' reports, it was a smashing success -- successful enough to spawn this scaled-up cross-country version.

Grantees won't be named until June 2015, but the mere acknowledgment of need and pledge of support from Bloomberg Philanthropies has those invited to apply in a veritable tizzy. The creation of a new arts funding source, as rare as a warm summer day in San Francisco, is big news indeed.