“The staff at NAF is able to explain financial planning in a way we can understand. They changed our way of thinking and helped us look at things differently.”

Sherilyn Howes, Associate Director at Youth Performance Company

For Jacie Knight, starting a nonprofit youth performance company in Minneapolis didn’t take a master’s degree in finance; it took passion and creativity. After years as a theater director, artistic educator and youth talent agent, Knight felt it was time to redirect her passion. With only $100 from a thankful parent whose child Knight had represented, she set out and convinced a theater to offer free practice and performance space, and others to donate promotional materials and printing. For the cost of postage to mail announcements, Youth Performance Company (YPC) debuted on stage in 1989 with “Tom Sawyer.” “I really wanted to create a theater company in the city where kids were empowered and they were the focal point and driving force,” Knight said. “We’ve been fortunate because the right people have learned about us and believed in us.”

As YPC grew, foundations, corporations and individuals embraced Knight’s passion and financially backed YPCs mission of igniting and fueling the artistic spirit of youth by developing, empowering and advancing young artists. With growth came new challenges in managing the unpredictability of nonprofit funding and cyclical cash flow. A colleague told Knight and YPC Associate Director Sherilyn Howes about Nonprofits Assistance Fund. “Working with Janet [Ogden-Brackett] was like financial-therapy,” Knight said. “While it was challenging, it was also a great lesson. Being able to understand and plan your cash flow allows you to plan for troubled times, so when it happens, instead of panicking, you’re prepared.” YPC has continued to rely on NAF for advice, coaching, and an outside perspective for strategy and financial decisions. Now, a savvier YPC continues to advance young artists and audiences with classes, main stage productions, school residencies, and leadership development programs. And if the youth decide to pursue careers as artists, Knight and Howes encourage them to take a business class or two along the way.