Sunday, December 13, 2009

Regional Funders Perspective on Collaboration: Watch the Video

Colgate University offered the following funders' conversation:

Dunn says that Central New York has a modest foundation community, with only $400 million in assets and $20 million in annual grants. With those funds, how can we have the most impact. He has seen many encouraging conversations about sustainability in not for profit organizations in the community, and discussions about merging, sharing objectives, and regionalization. OShea says that, as the largest funder in their area, several smaller foundations have come under their umbrella as donor advised or designated funds. This enables them to have a conversation about their interests and the impact of their charitable dollars. She also stresses the importance of the indicator study as a way to articulate the needs of the community to themselves and the community. Brown does the same thing by relying on other agencies to give them this information. They are concerned with the power differential and remind themselves to remain sensitive about this. She shares an example of a cultural organization that has systemic issues. They also discuss the definition of philanthropy and the creation of the Center for Philanthropy by the Central New York Community Foundation.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Leadership Alliance for a Vital Community

Herkimer & Oneida County Indicators
What is a community indicators study? Community indicator studies are now commonly conducted across the country to provide objective snapshots of an area's quality of life. This is an opportunity to engage in a community-wide conversation about the current state of the Mohawk Valley region and how to respond collectively to issues that we face. The indicator categories are arts and culture, economic self-sufficiency, economy, education, environment, health, housing, public safety, technology and transportation.

Why would a community want an indicators study? A community indicators study is like a check-up with the doctor. The study tells the community what areas are healthy and which areas need work. It is objective and based on facts rather than sentiment. It will help the community establish shared goals toward increasing its economic viability, well-being and sustainability. We believe that with this information, organizations and individuals will form partnerships and take action to build a vital community and improve the overall perception of our community.

Who is responsible for the indicators study? This is the inaugural project of the Leadership Alliance for a Vital Community (LAVC), which is a partnership among The Community Foundation of Herkimer & Oneida Counties, Inc., Mohawk Valley EDGE and United Way of the Valley and Greater Utica Area. The Community Foundation is taking the lead in the data collection phase of this project on behalf of the Alliance.

What is the geographic focus of the indicators study? The focus is on Oneida and Herkimer counties.

When and how are you collecting the information? The data is being collected and processed, and will be released in the first quarter of 2010. We have selected the Center for Governmental Research (CGR) from Rochester, NY as the data collection agency that can best meet our needs. CGR is collecting and analyzing data to develop a report of the findings along with an accompanying web site, which will be unveiled in the spring of 2010.

How will you decide what information to collect? We will invite community members who are experts in the 10 indicator areas for sessions where they will review the potential indicators for each category. Their expertise will help inform the specific areas of study for a focused, independent and objective measurement of key community indicators. Ultimately, these experts and the Alliance will use the data to take action.

The purpose of LAVC is to strengthen a healthy, vibrant community through collaborative leadership that identifies significant community issues, builds regional consensus, creates a shared vision and is a catalyst for change.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

A plan not yet realized

The Utica OD reported that the recent $20 million Stanley Center for the Arts renovation ranks high on the list of projects expected to bring about a downtown renaissance.

But since the 1928 theater reopened in spring 2008 to the St. Petersburg Ballet’s performance of “Romeo and Juliet,” the increase in the number of shows has been only one-third of what Stanley officials expected.

The number has risen from 95 pre-renovation to a projected 110 shows in 2009. That’s far fewer than the 140 annual shows expected after the Stanley expanded its stage, added dressing rooms and improved the loading dock.

Yearly attendance is even more off the mark from estimates made by theater leaders in 2005, a time when they were in the midst of raising many hundreds of thousands of dollars for the renovation from governments, local donors and other sources.

Faced with recession-weary patrons, theater officials now find themselves making numerous adjustments.

Among them:
◦Executive Director Ronald Thiele has proposed a wage freeze for the Stanley’s 21 employees. The theater is also tightening spending.
◦The Stanley plans to back off for now from presenting shows itself, an avenue it had pursued as the renovation reached fruition.
◦The theater might offer more “pocketbook-appropriate” events for local residents such as Sunday matinees.
Theater officials say they are still learning how to manage what they’ve created.

“There’s a strong sea-change in the tasking of people’s time and resources,” Thiele said. “It really creates an organizational shift that we are a performing arts center.”

The lack of significant change has disappointed some of the theater’s neighbors.

“I think the Stanley is not utilizing their capabilities to their fullest potential,” said James Loy, who owns Utica’s 257 Steakhouse. “I think they could have newer, better shows in there and bring a lot more to the downtown area than what they’ve been producing.” Read more here.