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Shall We Dance?

There were two recent announcements of unusual organizational collaborations that caught my attention. First, an article in Crains New York reported that the Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company is in final negotiations to merge with Dance Theater Workshop. If the deal is consummated, the two groups will combine their boards and staff into one entity with a new name and mission. The Columbus Symphony also announced that it has outsourced its administrative functions to the Columbus Association for the Performing Arts (CAPA). CAPA also handles administrative duties for Contemporary American Theatre Company, the Franklin Park Conservatory, and the Phoenix Theatre for Children, in addition to its primary mission as a performing arts presenter and facility manager. Both of these appear borne out of financial necessity, as is too often the case with organizational collaborations in the non-profit arts and culture sector. There is a growing sentiment among enlightened arts leaders, however, that organizational collaborations can produce positive institutional benefits – such as demonstrating efficiency to donors and generating more resources for programs and services – that may justify the effort to set them up and the resulting shared control of decisions. The “carrot” of additional funding opportunities – such as the Collaboration Prize offered by the Lodestar Foundation – is also helping to turn organizational collaborations from a sign of failure to avoid into an innovative strategy and a “best practice” to emulate. A variety of resources are available from the Nonprofit Collaboration Database.


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