Arts & Culture Case Studies for the Twin Cities

Over the years, NAF has worked with a range of arts organizations in the Twin Cities and greater Minnesota, including theaters large and small; organizations specializing in film, dance, and television; and nonprofits that seek to harness the talents of their communities into both artistic and financial successes.

We’ve found that success means willingness to be a true partner: listening, engaging, and fostering openness even when times become difficult. We’ve seen organizations thrive, we’ve helped others through all manner of crises, and we’ve been there with experienced advice when they want to grow, change, shift, and adapt.

With this in mind, NAF offers this arts & culture series as some of what we’ve learned. Divided into eight case studies to illustrate our eight lessons learned, we want to illustrate models of investment, collaboration, and sharing that have contributed to the thriving nonprofit arts scene in the Twin Cities.

It’s our hope that we’ll offer the spark of an idea or two for other communities across the country who are looking to water the gardens of their own creative cultures in a fiscally aware and sustainable manner.

To download a pdf of the summary of the case studies of the eight lessons learned, click here

Lesson 1: Get involved early and stay with the organization. Relationships need to evolve and extend to more than one person.

Lesson 2: Understand the organization as a whole, not just an event in isolation.

Lesson 3: Understand the business models of arts organizations, and the external environment in which they operate.

Lesson 4: Artists have significant capacity for nonprofit financial management. Invest time and expertise in their development.

Lesson 5: Build financial knowledge throughout the organization, and convey the joys of embracing and practicing financial rigor.

Lesson 6: Find an agent-of-change within the organization to truly listen, internalize, and take leadership. Challenge or crisis can provide opportunity.

Lesson 7: Capitalization is critical—and working capital is almost always the most critical capital tool for stability and growth.

Lesson 8: Be clear about whether a loan is the right vehicle for both the project and the organization. If so, “good” collateral isn’t critical to make a good loan if the leadership, strategy, and business model are strong.