Joe Patti, senior contributor

Focus Areas

Marketing, Legal Issues, Operations (backstage and front of house), Arts Presenting and Producing, Business Models, Outdoor Festivals Presenting Contemporary Indigenous Artists, Arts and Technology, Leadership in the Arts, Collaboration (between organizations, communities, artists-all permutations), Professional Development and Training, Organizational Culture, Volunteers, University Arts Environments

About

When I was a teenager if anyone had told me that I would be excited to share information about contract law, marketing, human resources, grant writing and the philosophy behind ticket pricing, I would have laughed…and laughed. But there is such a dearth of this information applicable to the needs of non-profit arts organizations that I do get excited when I see the opportunity to discuss these topics. I am currently the Director of the Vern Riffe Center for the Arts at Shawnee State University. Across my career I have worked at University of Hawaii-Leeward Community College, University of Central Florida, Asolo Theater, Utah Shakespearean Festival, Appel Farm Arts and Music Center and numerous other places both defunct and funky.

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Joe Patti

Article Archive

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Your Small Non-Profit Needs D&O Insurance Too

ContentsDo I Really Need Directors and Officers Insurance?Does Your Non-Profit Have Employees?No Extra Pay For Imaginations Running Over TimeNot All Policies Created EqualDon’t Go To Trial With The One That Brought You Do I Really Need Directors and Officers Insurance? You may hear about Directors and Officers Insurance (D&O) and think only really large non-profits that deal with hundreds of millions of dollars in transactions a year, engage in complex business dealing…

Give Your Consent To Shorter Board Meetings

If there is one thing people hate, it is long, protracted board meetings. It may well be one of the factors keeping you from establishing a quorum at meetings. One of the easiest solutions is to implement a consent agenda. What that does is package routine items like committee reports; financial reports; staff hires requiring approval; items needing no discussion, but requiring board approval, into one agenda item. With a single vote,…

Discovering The True Cost Of Programs

For some time now the perception that a non-profit with a high overhead cost was inefficient has provided a disincentive for non-profit organizations to figure out the true cost of their programs. Recently non-profit evaluaters like GuideStar, Charity Navigator and BBB Wise Giving Alliance  have been advocating for eliminating overhead ratio as a measure of effectiveness.  The federal Office of Management and Budget recently implemented rules requiring governments at all levels to…

Out, Damned Bylaw!

A few years back Ellis Carter made two helpful posts on her Charity Lawyer Blog about what to Include and Exclude from Non-Profit organization bylaws. The exclude list may be the more valuable of the two lists because it is applicable to groups who are just starting out as well as existing organizations who could use a revamp of their bylaws. Having participated in rewriting bylaws for two organizations in the last…

Lending Your Tenor

ContentsIf only they came and saw our art, they would be hooked for life.The Dali Over My BedArt Straight From The FarmYeah But I Am A Performing Arts Organization, This Doesn’t Work For Me If only they came and saw our art, they would be hooked for life. This is one of those commonly voiced assumptions that is untrue. Some people need more than one interaction, often with diverse artistic expressions, before…

In An Emergency Listen To….?

(Source) If there is a snow storm (or snow monster), tornado, power outage or anything that might raise questions about whether an event you are sponsoring will occur, do people know how learn the event’s status? Sure they can call the box office, but if you are performing at a venue you don’t control or if someone has been unable to change the message on the voicemail, how will people know where…

MOU vs Contracts

Non-profit organizations frequently enter into memorandum of understanding (MOU) relationships so it is important to understand the difference between them and contracts. In simple terms, an MOU is generally not legally binding while a contract is. The distinction actually comes down to the language used in the terms of a document. So a document can say Memorandum of Agreement on the top, but the terms set out by the language in the…

Can An Ex Officio Member Vote? Aye.

A potentially problematic assumption many people make is that the status of being an ex officio member of a group limits that person’s voting rights. Nothing could be further from the truth. Ex officio only refers to the manner in which a person gains the position, generally by virtue of a position or office they hold. It is the the bylaws which dictate whether that person has any voting rights or not….

Board Service, Within Limits

Term limits for board members are a tricky subject. When you are first starting a non-profit organization, the board is often the sole source of labor until the organization gathers enough resources to hire staff. At that point, you may not even want to consider creating any rules that might force the departure of any of the dedicated people who share in your vision. Why Term Limits? In the long term though,…

Your Images May Not Be Yours To Use

There is so much discussion about intellectual property rights, it can make you nervous about using other people’s images.  Stock photos can either be unsuitable to your needs, or expensive to license. But at least as an arts organization, you have a staff of skilled and creative people who can take excellent pictures for you and you never have to worry about usage rights, because they are your images, right? Well, not…

Physics and Theater

Since there is always a call for ideas to integrate the arts into other school subjects, I wanted to note the intersection of theater and physics. One of the great things about the backstage of a theater is that it is a showcase of physics in practice. ContentsView From The GridCounterweight SystemElectricityLight and ColorEducation On The Cheap View From The Grid How often have you ever raised or lowered venetian blinds perfectly…

Sharing The Secret

Sharing The Secret

There is a poem by Denise Levertov, “The Secret,” that addresses so many of the anxieties and hang ups that both artists and potential audiences have about art. I feel like the poem should be handed out at performances, museum galleries, literature classes, intro to [insert arts discipline] classes in order to reassure people of their ability to have an authentic and valid experience. You can read the full text for yourself,…

Preparing For Outdoor Festivals and Performances

Ah Spring! The time when young arts organizations thoughts turn to …outdoor festivals. With the upcoming warm weather, it seems the time to offer some general tips about preparing and planning for outdoor festivals. More specifically, with crises that may arise. Even if you have been running a festival for awhile, these bear noting. I worked for a well organized outdoor arts and music festival that had been running for 12 years…

How Ready Is Your Long And Short Term Crisis Planning?

In a crisis, arts organizations face challenges that other business entities don’t. After Hurricane Katrina, SouthArts created a program called ArtsReady that serves as a resource for arts organizations providing information on common concerns as well as those specific to arts organizations. The ArtsReady site provides links to a number of good planning resources. Not long ago, someone posted on a LinkedIn forum asking if any arts organization had created an active…

Board Service. All About the Gs.

ContentsThe Old GsThe Real GGetting Back To BasicsSo how does one learn how to assemble and train a great board? The Old Gs I was recently very encouraged to read the idea “that [non-profit] boards must be packed with influential connectors” is becoming increasingly obsolete. Learning this was a relief to me, and probably a lot of people, who have worked in arts organizations where board membership was often defined by the…

What Department Gets Assigned Community Engagement?

ContentsWho Is In Charge of Engagement?Community Engagement In A Different ContextOh, You Loved The Show? Can I Give You A Voucher for A Free Dinner? Who Is In Charge of Engagement? Someone comes up to you and says they really enjoyed the program they attended and want to spread the word to their friends and get them involved, to whom do you refer them? Is there someone who will offer to collect…

Send Us Your Selfies

ContentsA Place For SelfiesOur Patrons Are Real People……With Wide Ranging InterestsWord of Caution A Place For Selfies Just because you don’t want people taking selfies during a performance doesn’t mean selfies can’t serve a constructive purpose. It is just a matter of channeling the impulse people have to prove they were present somewhere and participating toward a specific goal. In fact, if people are taking selfies in connection with your events, it…

I Dont Always Volunteer

The Value of A Volunteer

It can be quite difficult to determine what sort of value you should place on a volunteer’s time. Yet, it can be very important because grantors often look for in-kind community support of arts organizations. The Independent Sector has calculated this number to be a national average of $22.55 and breakdown the value specifically state by state. Washington D.C. took top prize in 2013 with $38.69. Calculating this number is not only…

Altering And Amending Contracts

Since you may be used to the “take it or leave it” conditions in the End User License Agreements (EULA) on every piece of software, social media platform and online service you come across in your daily life, you may be under the impression that you have to meet every condition in a performing artist’s contract. This is generally not the case and unlike any EULA  you may come across, you can…

Don’t Surrender To Tax Treaties

Presenting artists from other countries is very exciting. It allows you to provide your audiences an experience they can not get anywhere else in the country. Since the governments of other countries frequently subsidize tours by their resident artists, presenting these performances can be quite affordable. What may not seem so exciting or affordable is resolving the issue of the 30% withholding tax that is assessed against foreign artists, especially when you…

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