Tuesday, December 20, 2011

A&BC February Workshop: Building Corporate Partnerships

The Arts & Business Council is having a workshop on Tues, February 21st, on the topic of building corporate partnerships. At this workshop, you'll learn how nonprofit organizations and corporations can build mutually beneficial partnerships to further both their missions and shared values. You'll hear insider perspective of why corporations are interested in investing in community organizations, what they're looking for in a partner and what challenges need to be overcome internally to make that happen.

Price: $45/65

For more details, visit our website: http://www.artsbiz-chicago.org/events/2012/02/building-corporate-partnerships/

Monday, December 19, 2011

A&BC January Workshop: Effective Board & Staff Communication

The Arts & Business Council is having a workshop on Tues, Jan 24th, from 5:30-8:00pm. Learn how to communicate your way to an excellent Board/Staff relationship. You'll hear from Executive Directors and Board Chairs who will share their tactics for maintaining open lines of communication.

Price: $45/65

For more information, visit our website: http://www.artsbiz-chicago.org/events/2012/01/effective-board-staff-communication/

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Invitation from People's Music School's YOURS Project

The School's el Sistema-inspired youth orchestra program, the YOURS Project, is holding its Winter Concert / 3rd Anniversary on Friday, Dec. 16th at 7:00pm. All are welcome to join.

The concert will feature pieces from each orchestra. The Hibbard Nucleo has an advanced, intermediate and beginner orchestra. We just started a second nucleo at Monroe Elementary and their beginner orchestra will perform as well.

The concert is in the Auditorium of Hibbard Elementary School in Albany Park, 3244 W. Ainslie St. Please enter the building at the School's main entrance off of Sawyer. Street parking is available and the School's parking lots will remain open for the event. $2 will be requested at the door.

Hope everyone is well.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Grant Writing, Fundraising and Financial Management workshops!

One of your cohort members asked about opportunities for learning more about best practices in grant writing, fundraising and nonprofit financial management. Here's what I found that's coming up. If you know of other learning opportunities, please share!

Donor's Forum: Tools & Tips for Successful Fundraising, Dec 6, 12:00 - 1:15pm, 208 South LaSalle, Suite 1540 :

Center for Nonprofit Success: Grant Proposal 101 Workshop, Jan 12, 8:30am-12:00pm, University Center, 525 South State Street

Center for Nonprofit Success: Nonprofit Financial Management, Oct 12, 8:30am-12:00pm, University Center, 525 South State Street: http://www.cfnps.org/CHILS8A.aspx.

A&BC will be having nonprofit financial management and fundraising event workshops next year too. We'll be posting our 2012 workshop scheduled by the end of the year. Stay tuned! You'll find them listed here: http://www.artsbiz-chicago.org/workshops/

Monday, November 7, 2011


Here's a professional development opportunity to consider attending...

Monday, November 14, 2011 | 1:00pm - 5:00pm | Chicago Cultural Center

Learn how to capitalize on Chicago's $11 billion tourism industry...

Meet a panel of industry experts and hear how you can attract visitors to your organization. Find out how to work with tour operators to be featured on a tour, how to work with concierges to promote your events, and how to market to groups. You will also learn about all the services available to you through the Chicago Office of Tourism and Culture, including inclusion on www.ExploreChicago.org, Chicago's official tourism site.

Following the panel, get in-depth training on how to utilize social media platforms like Foursquare, SCVNGR, and Flickr to further engage the tens of millions of leisure travelers who visit Chicago each year.

RSVP HERE: http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/89C2SY2 by November 10th

Admission is free but reservation required.

Questions? Please contact Maureen Burns at 312.742.1761 or

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

New research published on Teaching Artists

Last month, the NORC at the University of Chicago published its findings after three years of research on teaching artists.
A Report on the Teaching Artist Research Project: Teaching Artists and the Future of Education can be downloaded from NORC's website at:

Just the background information is informative, much less the substantive findings. Both will make it into our future grant proposals.

People's Music School

Monday, October 3, 2011

Invitation from DanceWorks Chicago

Hello Smart Growth fellows,

We are hosting another FREE performance this Wednesday, October 5th from 12:15-1:15pm at the Harold Washington Library.

Vibrant and innovative, DanceWorks Chicago is proud to share a diverse repertory featuring who is new and what is next in contemporary dance as well as to showcase exciting work from established choreographers. This season, DWC celebrates its 5th anniversary creating an environment conducive to nurturing experiences of significance for everyone from artist to audience.

Please fee free to join us and bring a friend.



Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Fall season is here. What will you be doing?

To help us, and your fellow SMART Growthers follow your work, remember to post upcoming events, performances and anything of interest in the Calendar of Events section of the blog.

We want to make sure we have every opportunity to see your work!

Saturday, August 20, 2011

IL Cultural Data Project

You know that we have joined a dozen other funders in requiring the use of the IL Cultural Data Project (CDP) as part of the application process, but do you know why? The features that allow you to easily illustrate trends in key indicators, such as earned income, contributed income, or operating deficits, help us track your progress without having to ask you for lots of information in your final reports. That is one good reason to keep it current, particularly if your organization is improving. Although we need to see the FY2010 figures for all SMART Growth applicants, if you have completed your 2011 fiscal year and already have the audit/Form 990, it's important to enter those figures, as well.

There's another good reason that so many funders are driving their grantees to this data collection system. There are now 698 arts/cultural organizations in Cook County that have entered data for 1-3 fiscal years, and we can begin to see what is "normal" and will be sharing that with you.

We will also be integrating this data into our Cultural Vitality Indicators for the region and sharing it with the City of Chicago to help inform the development of its new Cultural Plan. For this reason, it is essential that the data reflects the broad and diverse spectrum of our sector and is not skewed by lack of participation among small groups, ethnic organizations, suburban locations, etc.

So, now that you are in the know about its value, can I get you to think differently about some of the numbers you enter - specifically, those related to participation? Currently, researchers cannot use this data for analysis because organizations are entering figures that are not valid. A common example, is an organization that performs at a festival or marches in a parade and lists hundreds of thousands of audience members. First, attendance at these events is always a very vague estimate, and more important, unless the parade was in honor of your organization or it was your organization's festival, the throngs of participants are not really YOUR audience - right? We will never be able to determine if and how strategies for increasing audience participation work if folks continue to inflate their numbers to the point where no one will waste time analyzing them across the arts industry. These figures need to be useful, both to you and the field, so please keep that in mind when putting numbers together regarding attendance. Thanks.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Grant ID

This is the # that will be assigned by the Grants Manager at the Chicago Community Trust. No one has one now because this is your first SMART Growth grant. As you apply for your annual renewal in 2012 and 2013, the Grant ID # will show which grant you are referencing.

So just leave that blank.

3 year plan confirmation

Are we ever allowed to provide a narrative in terms of our 3 year plan or are we only giving impact outcomes measurements per each year. I ask because our board has went over the top with suggestions and details regarding each of our management areas and im not sure how to share this info in the proposal.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Request ID

On the year one template, we are asked for a "Request ID". Do we have one already or is that assigned to us later?

Tellin' Tales Theatre

Friday, August 12, 2011

Managment Area(s)

We are coming down to the finishing the Three Year Plan draft, but are wondering if by focusing on just one lagging Management Area for all three years, we should have focused on more than one. Maybe another for Year 2 and yet another for Year 3? Or are we OK with focusing on one all the way through?

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Answer to Question from UIMA

Regarding the financial information to be provided in the Year 1 proposal, it should include the year that just ended (audited or not), the current year (total budgeted figures), and the most recently audited year. You do not need to include 2 audited years, as long as they are accessible in your IL Cultural Data Project Report (which must be attached every year).

The "top 5 sources of income" should be actual figures from the current year.

I'll begin checking this blog every day as we are getting closer to the deadline.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

3 Year SMART Growth Plan/ Yr 1 Grant Proposal Proof Deadline Reminder

Afternoon everyone,

I want to remind everyone that the deadline for submission of the 3 Year SMART Growth Plan/ Yr 1 Grant Proposal Proof is this coming Monday - 15th August 2011.

All documents should be emailed to myself at achapman@artsbiz-chicago.org.  The documents Andrew requires to start his review are the completed 3 Year SMART Growth Plan, and the completed Year 1 Grant Proposal.  We DO NOT need any of the CDP data, board list documents, or copies of your AG990 or completed audit. 

We look forward to receiving your documents.

SMART Growth 3 Yr Plan Guidelines

Hi everyone,

I am starting a new post addressing the couple of questions from earlier today, as comments are not as visible.

Regarding the structure of the 3 year plan, please find below a link to a document which reiterates the steps outlined in the smARTscope Report, but also gives you a template to work with.  This template is not mandatory, so hopefully if you have started your own structured document, you do not need to restart.  However this template can still be used as a guide.

The document can be downloaded from the following link:

3 Year SMART Growth Plan Guide/Template

3 Year plan

The last page of the report doesnt give directions as to how the 3-yr plan should be structured

3 Year Smart Grow plan

In regards to the 3 year plan, are we creating this in a seperate word document? SHould it only contain impact, outcome and measurements?

Monday, August 8, 2011

Questions about Year 1 Proposal

Q. 1: Under "Organizational Budget" section of Year 1 Grant Proposal - revenue, expenses and surplus/deficit figures have to be provided for "Most recently audited fiscal year FY 20__", "Most recently completed fiscal year (if not yet audited) FY 20__", and "FY2012 Budget". As our organization is on a calendar year reporting basis (Jan. - Dec.) we have the audited figures for FY2010, should the middle column be left blank or do we have to provide FY2011 Budget?

Q. 2: For which year(s) "Other Sources of Income" must be provided?

Thank you

Question re: 3 yr plan

For the SMART Growth 3-year plan, should we continue to use the same format requested for year 1? Essentially, are you asking us to identify Management Area, Impact Statement, Outcomes, & Measures for Year 1, 2, & 3? Or do you need a narrative as well in the 3-year plan?

Monday, August 1, 2011

1st Year Grant Application

The Outcomes and Measures provided in our survey results are excellent, and will be taken seriously by our Board and Staff. We are using these Outcomes and Measures as the basis of our application in the area in which we are seeking the grant. Can we do this? Or do we need to create our own Os & Ms on the application?

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Questions about Proposals

I'm hearing from a variety of staff that questions are floating around, and I would once again encourage everyone to post their questions here on the blog. I will respond directly and everyone else will get the benefit of the information. I cannot respond to 31 groups via personal e-mails and the risk you take if you are asking other Trust or Arts & Business Council staff is that responses will not be the same, depending on who you ask. THIS BLOG IS THE DEFINITIVE SOURCE, so don't be shy about asking questions.

Re. how many management areas can/should be addressed?
The smaller your organization, the more important it is to focus on a realistic approach. It's better to create outcomes in one management area during Year 1 and achieve them than to set up several outcomes in multiple management areas and then fall short and have to keep working on the same lagging areas in Year 2-3. The goal is to tackle 1-2 per year and achieve the desired improvements so that you can move on. Ideally, by Year 3, your organization may have brought its 2 (for example) lagging areas up to par and may opt to focus on a management area that is ripe for growth.

Re. Are there any restrictions on grant funds?
This is a general operating grant. It cannot be used to pay past debt. You may develop your budget however you wish; however, you will need to show how it helps you address the lagging management areas and achieve the outcome(s) you've identified in the grant. For example, if your lagging management area is Financial Management, it makes sense to include the cost of a PT bookkeeper; if it's Audience Development/Marketing, you may want to allocate your resources there. We would really be concerned if you were working on the lagging area of Financial Management and we saw in your budget that there was a new hire that was a Development Director because this position is associated with Income Generation.

Remember that the budget required is your organization's FULL OPERATING BUDGET for your upcoming fiscal year - 2012 - not a budget that adds up to the grant amount you're requesting.

Since this is designed to build the management capacity of your organization, we strongly encourage you to include a little money in the line item that says "Board and Staff Development". This way you can have the resources to find workshops, conferences, or consultants/facilitators to help you, your staff, volunteers, and Board members broaden their knowledge in the management areas you've identified.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Looking forward to next phase

Hello all,

I'm off on vacation soon, but wanted to share a few thoughts before I leave. As you may or may not know, I've been proofing for content, guiding changes and diligently wading knee deep into each and every one of your smARTscope reports over the last few months. While a few of you are awaiting your final presentations, all but two of the reports are now completed.

As you begin work on your SMART Growth plans and your first year grant proposals, remember to rely on the excellent work of your smARTscope consultants and the findings of your smARTscope self-assessments.

I look forward to working with all of you in August/September.

Andrew Micheli
Director of Programs

A question has been asked regarding amount requested..

Regarding how much should be requested within the grant proposal, the grant request should be between $20,000 and $50,000. The request should be based on budget size, program/project requirements, history etc. Ultimately, the Trust will determine the final grant amount based on the total distribution of funds allocated to the program.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Hints for Good Grantwriting

I wouldn't blame anyone for spending more time by the lake than the
computer, but in case you're working on your grant proposal, here's a couple of
tips to keep in mind:

  • Please try to minimize or avoid the use of acronyms. There are no
    character limits to inhibit you, so err on the side of clarity. For Trust
    staff and Board members that will be reading about 31 organizations, an alphabet
    soup of organizations and programs will merely dilute your identity and make you
    less memorable.

  • Omit superlatives (see my earlier post); state facts, figures, and awards
    with specificity, rather than "...thousands

  • Remember to update your Board list and your demographic info.

  • Complete your IL Cultural Data Project in plenty of time so that it can be
    reviewed by the Help Desk at CDP. Please try to give accurate information
    regarding participation figures because it will be used as a baseline and
    if you're guessing wildly or overestimating (we marched in a parade..." it will
    be very hard to measure incremental growth.

  • If your fiscal year ends June 30, we understand that you
    may not have your audit completed by Sept. 15; however, we will need to have it
    by Dec. 15, 2011, so that it can be reviewed before the final vote by our
    Board in January.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Making changes to a blog follower's account

Good afternoon,

A couple blogger technical questions...
Is it possible for more than one person from an organization to access the SMART Growth blog? Ideally, both our Executive Director and Development Manager would like to directly follow. When I emailed the most recent blog to our Executive Director, the email he received included a link that took him to a message that denied access to the blog entry I was trying to forward.

Unfortunately, I also initially accessed this blog from my personal account (a gmail account). If it's not possible to have more than one person from each organization follow the blog, can we go back to square one and reset to a work email?

Denise McCracken

Development Manager
People's Music School

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Now that your smARTscope process is complete, what next?

Now it’s time to start on your 3-Year SMART Growth Plan and your first year SMART Growth proposal to the Chicago Community Trust.

You’ll remember from your smARTscope final presentation and the accompanying report that there’s a page near the end titled: “Developing Your 3-Year SMART Growth Plan.”

Once you’ve completed your 3-year SMART Growth Plan, you’re ready to start on your year one proposal. Download the proposal and take a look at the format and what it’s asking. You’ll notice that it may seem slightly different then other CCT proposals you’ve completed. You’ll be working closely with your smARTscope report to think about and propose the outcomes and measures you’re planning on working on during the Smart Growth program.

Remember that your smARTscope report will NOT be shared with the Chicago Community Trust. With that in mind, once you have a draft of your proposal, you’ll be working with Andrew Micheli, Director of Programs at A&BC, to review your proposal and your 3-year SMART Growth Plan before you submit them to CCT.

The deadline for submission to CCT is September 15, 2011.

In order to review your drafts in time for the CCT’s deadline, you will need to submit your drafts to A&BC by August 15, 2011.

It will be a good idea to get started on your 3-Year SMART Growth Plan and first year report as soon as you have your final smARTscope report in hand. This will give you ample time to work with A&BC to finalize your work before submitting to CCT.

If you have any questions regarding the process, post them to the blog and the person most able to help will respond. Both A&BC and the Trust will be actively monitoring the blog.

Once you have a draft of your 3-Year SMART Growth Plan and first year report, email them to Alex at A&BC. From there, Andrew will schedule a time to work with you to review your plan and proposal.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Update from The Chicago Community Trust

Hello, smARTies! We are meeting with the Arts & Business Council this week to review progress on the smARTscope assessment because it looks like many of you are finished and eager to move on to the next step. This blog will remain your source of information for the SMART Growth Plan and the proposal process, rather than the Trust website, because the SMART Growth program is available only to you and it is disappointing for other organizations to see the proposal info on our website and then be told that they aren't eligible.

The SMART Growth proposal template will be posted on June 23rd and must be submitted to the Trust by Sept. 15, 2011.

We will also be posting resources from time to time. Today, I want to remind you that the Trust offers a Fellowship award to individuals who are either an emerging or experienced leader in any nonprofit. This is a personal award, so you may apply in addition to receiving a SMART Growth grant. The deadline is almost upon us, so visit our website to learn more.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Phase 4 underway....

Afternoon everyone,

I thought I would post another little update from the land of smARTscope. We have now officially launched all of the 31 organizations in the program, and they are all at different stages in the process.

Phase 1 org's are very close to finishing. We have completed 7 of the 8 organizations, with the final org scheduled for their final presentation meeting in the next couple of weeks. I wish all of the organizations who have completed our process the best of luck in the future; both with the SMART Growth Program and longer-term.

Phase 2 org's are in the middle of our program right now, with all completing the survey stage and Cohesion Meeting, and 4 of 8 orgs have had their final presentation meeting. The other four are scheduled for the next few weeks.

Phase 3 org's have just come to the end of the survey process, and have either completed their Cohesion Meetings or are just embarking on them. I hope the process has been interesting and I look forward to seeing their final reports before presentations happen.

Finally, Phase 4 was deployed yesterday, with just seven organizations left in the program. I am sure they will be as professional and efficient as all of the other org's, and it will be a strange feeling when their survey stage finishes and I don't have to deploy again!

All in all, I have been very impressed with how smoothly things have ran, so I want to thank all of you for making this process as successful as it has been.

One final thing; Once your organization has completed the smARTscope process (survey, Cohesion Meeting, Final Report presentation), the next stage will be the SMART Growth program, which is administered by the Chicago Community Trust and not myself. If you have any specific queries regarding what happens after smARTscope, please contact Karen Mensch (mensch@cct.org) or Suzanne Connor (sconnor@cct.org) at CCT.

That's all for now!!

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

smARTscope Program - Update

Hi all,

It has been a while since I posted a status update on the program, so I thought I would tell you all how things are going.

Phase 1 organizations have now almost completed the smARTscope program, with some reports having already been presented, and the others scheduled for the upcoming weeks. May I extend my gratitude to the survey takers and especially the lead contacts in this phase for their extremely helpful assistance.

For our phase 2 organizations, we have now reached the point where all of our cohesion meetings are scheduled, and many of them are complete. The survey taking stage was mostly problem free, and every organization completed the survey process within the deadlines, at a near 100% completion rate. The cohesion meetings have gone well (so I hear), and our consultants are busy preparing the final reports for the presentation meetings.

Our 3rd phase organizations are busy in the middle of the survey taking process, and so I hope that by next Tuesday we have a similar situation to past phases, with timely results and a similar completion rate.

Finally, if you are reading this thinking none of the above has happened for you yet, never fear; it only means your are in our 4th and final phase of the rollout, which is scheduled to start with survey taking at the end of May/start of June. I will be in touch with the lead contacts of the remaining seven organizations in the next couple of weeks to obtain survey taker lists, contracts and all that fun stuff!

So that's where we are at; thank you to everyone for their professional attitude to the process, and I look forward to finishing off phases 1,2 & 3, and starting our final phase!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Invitation from DanceWorks Chicago

DanceWorks Chicago was recently selected to participate in a nation-wide beta test of Audience Engagement Platform's service developed to help us stay connected with our audiences! Our first event integrated with the AEP platform is Dance Bytes coming up at 12:30pm this Friday, April 29.

We would like to invite you, our fellow Smarth Growth participants, to join us for this event. If you are interested to attend, please RSVP today. And if there are people with whom you would like to share this experience, by all means, invite them by forwarding / sharing / tweeting so that they can attend as well. We'd love to hear your thoughts about our new work and AEP, so sign up to join us.

Thank you for taking the time to help DanceWorks Chicago plant the seeds of growth!


Tuesday, March 29, 2011

smARTscope Program - Phase 2

Good afternoon all,

As per my recent post, today is deployment day for the surveys for our 2nd phase organizations. Here's hoping that all runs as smoothly as the 1st phase, and we can continue to be successful.

I'll keep you all posted on the success of the end of phase 1, and how phase 2 is moving along in the upcoming weeks. And organizations that have not heard about their survey dates - don't worry. We will be in touch in the next month or two to get you fully prepared for the survey stage of the program.

Thanks everyone!!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

smARTscope Program - Phase 1

I thought it was about time that I posted an update as to how the smARTscope process is going. As of today, A&BC have successfully deployed the surveys to the first 8 organizations, and our consultants are busily analyzing the data in preparation for the cohesion meetings, which in the main are all scheduled within the deadlines set.

We achieved a completion rate of nearly 100% on the surveys, so I want to extend a big thank you to all of the survey takers, and the lead contacts for each organization, for their efforts to ensure that this part of the process was completed accurately and efficiently.

A&BC are also very close to being ready for the survey rollout to the next 8 organizations, and everything will be in place well before our deployment date of 29th March. I really hope that the next phase is as smooth as the 1st, and although we have a high standard set, I'm sure the 2nd phase organizations will not let us down!

Finally, any organization that has not been contacted yet regarding the survey - Don't worry, we have not forgotten about you! All organizations have been assigned in our rollout process, which means we have 15 organizations left split between the 3rd and 4th phase of rollout. I will be emailing the lead contacts of these organizations for survey takers well before their actual deployment date, so keep your eyes peeled for an email in your inbox.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Malawi healthcare film to air on Link TV – DIRECTV/DISH Network & online

My short film, 2 Things Involved, will air nationally on Link TV – DIRECTV 375/DISH Network 9410 – on Wednesday, March 9 at 8:30 pm PT/11:30 pm ET and Thursday, March 10 at 6 pm PT/9pm ET as part of a half-hour program featuring the best entries to Link TV's ViewChange Online Film Contest. 2 Things Involved will be part of an episode featuring inspiring stories of innovative solutions to rural healthcare. Tune in or watch it online at LinkTV.org/programs/viewchange!

2 Things Involved is now also available to watch at Hulu.com/viewchange and the film will soon be disseminated through other outlets as well, such as Snag Films, WGBH's "World" Channel (which is carried on 150 PBS stations), and other international stations.

This five-minute film is part of a feature documentary about healthcare in Malawi, In the Warm Heart, currently in postproduction. Watch for our website, InTheWarmHeart.com, which will be up and running by the end of March.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

News from our Mayor-elect

From the Tribune article by Chris Jones:

"In a wide-ranging interview about cultural matters with the Tribune last week, Rahm Emanuel, Chicago's mayor-elect, signaled his intent to “raise up” the arts in Chicago, especially in the neighborhoods, and previewed a major generational and cultural shift at a City Hall about to be run by a confident leader who listens to the alternative rock band Wilco, likes the darker plays at Steppenwolf Theatre and American Theater Company and is not about to stop hanging out at rock venues like Schubas or the Riviera Theatre.

Self-evidently, this is not to be your father's mayoralty. For unlike the man he is replacing, Emanuel clearly enjoys expressing his views on rock music, slam poetry and edgy plays — in radio studios and other public forums. Indeed, he has been eager to do so."

Click here to read more.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Tips from the Grant Geek

I want to use this blog to share some reminders about applicable sources of funding and my personal perspective on effective grantwriting.

To clarify, all SG orgs are eligible to apply for grants from the Arts Work Fund. Although it is housed at the Trust, it is a collaborative fund comprised of about 10 contributors, so it is not considered a second grant from us. The next DEADLINE IS MAY 15, 2011.

You may also wish to check out
Living Philanthropic to see how a former SG grantee, Changing Worlds, was able to benefit from this new online fundraising opportunity.

Congratulations to Young Chicago Authors, another SG graduate, for being selected as the recipient of the $5,000 donation from the "Fake Rahm" twitter fun!

On a more serious note, here's my tip for today. The 3 most essential elements of a grant request are: 1) being on time, 2) being complete, and 3) being compelling. I hope the first two are self-evident, so I'll focus on my definition of "compelling" for the next couple of posts, and at the risk of sounding negative, I'll feature the most common things that are NOT COMPELLING!

Vague superlatives are not compelling. Every proposal I read, from mega-million dollar institutions to SG applicants, states repeatedly that their work (no matter what it is) is "high quality". The majority also use "world-class", "innovative", unique" and "award-winning" over and over again. Frankly, this is a waste of characters (given the limit) because it is so relative and subjective and vague that it becomes useless as an evaluative measure.

If your org has won an award (recently - within the last 3 years), state what it is. If you've performed internationally and received acclaim abroad, be specific.

In the arts, "quality" is similar to "beauty"; it is often in the eye of the beholder. People tend to assume that if an organization is prestigious and well-endowed that its work is high quality because it has attracted such wide attention and support; however, you will probably agree that small organizations that are lesser known can also produce work that some of these very same judges would regard as high quality, but of course, they don't know about it. There are always debates about who is the judge of "quality" in the arts, and that's probably healthy but it should not be the focus of grantmaking.

Think about the specific descriptors that are unique and measurable about your work. If it is arts ed, perhaps it is "effective" in achieving the stated student outcomes at a certain level that is measured over time. If your work strives to further the public understanding of a particular culture, then one specific factor would be "authenticity" - how authentic is the work you are doing, how well-researched, how deeply connected to its roots, etc. If "unique" or "innovative" is your point of difference, then you need to demonstrate that you've actually researched the other options in the region and can document that your org is the only one doing this work.

I know this is a geeky way to analyze grantwriting, but when you read hundreds of them (as I do), it seems like it would be helpful to share some of these insights.

Friday, February 25, 2011

SMART Growth Welcome Dinner

We were thrilled to see all of you at Petterino's last night. It is your personal participation that makes our Board and executive leadership so aware of the benefits of SMART Growth.

I hope you all met someone new that will be an asset to your organization. As you all know, every opportunity to network like this holds the potential to broaden your audience, cultivate new donors, and create collaborations that lead to more innovative artistic work.

Thanks again to the Arts & Business Council for organizing this event.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Welcome to the SMART Growth Program!

Welcome to the 2011 SMART Growth program blog site.  As I believe was briefly discussed at the orientation, this blog is really here for you to make as much use of as you can.

You can use this blog to communicate with the other organizations within the program, share tips or thoughts on the program or the Chicago Arts culture, and post events on the calendar that you want to promote for your organization.  We will also be posting specific program deadlines on the calendar ensuring that you are up to date with information.

We will also use this blog as a center for frequently asked questions, which I will post (along with the answers) as and when they come up.  Please be sure to check out this section before emailing me with a potential query.

I hope the blog becomes a helpful, exciting and informative tool for all of you, and once again I extend our welcome to all of you participating in our program.  I am looking forward to working with each and every one of you.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

SMART Growth Dinner

SMART Growth Dinner – for Executive Director and Board Chair
Thursday, February 24th at 5:30 p.m.
150 N. Dearborn

SMART Growth Orientation

Wednesday, February 9th, 2011
Chicago Community Trust
111 E. Wacker Drive, 26th floor conference room