Partnerships Between Large and Small Cultural Organizations: A Strategy for Building Arts Participation
This report uses interviews with organizations involved in 10 foundation-funded partnerships to examine how partnerships between large and small cultural organizations “can be a useful tool for building cultural participation” and can help organizations “move into new worlds” by expanding their networks, horizons, capacities, and audiences. Specifically, large-small partnerships can be a strategy used to “expand artistic programming and services; engage new audiences; attract artists; engage donors; expand organizational networks; and strengthen staff and internal organizational capacity to conduct partnership-building activities”.
The report describes the partners, resources and benefits of each of the 10 partnership projects. Some specific benefits for small organizations include: the potential for growth; the strengthening of governance, administrative and financial capabilities; and increased public awareness. For larger organizations, potential benefits include: outreach to particular audiences; relationship-building at the community level; and engagement in activities that differ from their traditional marketing strategies.
However, “it can be very difficult to create mutually beneficial or sustained large-small partnerships” due to issues related to respect, influence and rewards. Other difficulties relate to staffing, professionalization, audience size, and the ethnic composition of staff, boards and audiences. These difficulties pose challenges that are classified as “coordination problems”, “problems of mutual respect, influence and benefits”; and “strains on small organizations’ administrative resources”.
To address these challenges, the report recommends that organizations:
- “make a frank assessment at the outset of how important the partnership is to each party, where it stands in relation to core organizational priorities, and what (and how much) each is willing to contribute”;
- “plan carefully”;
- “establish clarity beforehand on partners’ respective roles, responsibilities and rewards”;
- “confirm at the outset that the partnership and its goals have strong support from organizational leaders”;
- “realistically assess the partnership’s costs” and recognize that grants often do not cover the full costs; and
- establish a plan to accommodate differing organizational cultures and schedules.