Successful venturing


What are three key elements in creating a successful venture-philanthropy effort?


* It takes a village …to help any single artist succeed.

And this old adage holds true in pretty much any venture-philanthropy undertaking.

Money alone is never enough; you have to provide services to develop the resources your project implementers bring to the table.

In the very complex environments that often foster such ventures, there tends also to be a lot of competition for attention and money.

So you have to surround your project with support. Help your project implementers acquire skills that fall outside the direct scope of the project, for example in public relations or strategic planning.

For us, this means providing the artists we fund with promotional resources and hooking them up with producers and people who program venues.

This can be life-changing – and can multiply your impact tenfold.

Try to create a chain of opportunity. Our artists, for example, are paired with core professionals, and then go out and train other artists.

So the benefits of our professional development program reach much wider populations within our target group than those we could ever hope to impact directly.

If you want your project to succeed, you have to be prepared to do a lot more than write someone a check and say good luck.

* Timing is everything.

We learned early on that the combination of money and services was effective; what we didn’t understand for a while was the role that time plays in that equation.

For our artists, wherever we enter the process, we’re there throughout the project, and we’re still there as an advisor even when the money runs out.

Being willing and able to establish such long-term relationships is vital to fostering a successful venture philanthropy.

* Impact of small money.

Believe it or not, small money can have an incredible impact – if you’re there at the right moment.

But if you miss the moment, sometimes it doesn’t matter how much money you have, you can’t ever catch up.

A major part of our program for artists is retreats. We bring together producers from prime-time channels and major film festivals, as well as curators from the top art institutions.

These are relationships it might take people years to make on their own, so we’re essentially short-circuiting a process that if delayed, could slowly sap an artist’s career.

So a small investment at this very key moment, like paying an artist’s travel, is absolutely critical.

Identifying the right moment to make these seemingly insignificant investments means we have to have a deep knowledge of the project progress and process. If we don’t know, and we’re caught up short, there’s often not a lot we can do. So the quality and intimacy of your relationship with the project implementers is really critical.

 – Compiled by Elizabeth Floyd

Ruby Lerner is president and CEO of Creative Capital, a New York City-based nonprofit that acts as a catalyst for the development of ideas by artists.

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