Business Volunteers for the Arts

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A program matching business professionals with arts organizations needing skills-based consulting expertise will be relaunched by Arizona Citizens for the Arts during National Pro Bono Week. Business Volunteers for the Arts brings together business professionals with arts organizations looking to help build their capacity, improve their business practices and assist in growth and reach. Robin Hanson, a Business Volunteer for the Arts from Arizona Citizens for the Arts, will discuss the topic.

Ted Simons: A program matching business professionals with arts organizations will soon be relaunched by Arizona Citizens For The Arts. The effort brings together business professionals for skills-based consulting purposes. Joining us now is Robin Hanson, a business volunteer from Arizona Citizens For The Arts. Good to have you here, thanks for joining us.

Robin Hanson: It's nice to be joining you, as well.

Ted Simons: Let's get a better definition for business volunteers for the arts program.

Robin Hanson: It matches organizations, like you said, in the arts and culture world, with corporations who have skilled volunteers. It's really about connecting arts and business, it's what the motto is.

Ted Simons: What kind of most common needs are you hearing from most arts organizations?

Robin Hanson: The needs I'm hearing from arts organizations are sort of their wish list; they would love to be able to do something, but they just don't have either the time or the talent, or the resources within their organization. A couple of things I've been asked about, could I find someone to do a cost-benefit analysis for the last three years for their programs, which ones bring in funding, which might need to go away that aren't making any money, and which ones are spectacular. The executive director doesn't have time to sit down with the spreadsheets on her desk. She said can you find me an accountant to come in and do that.

Ted Simons: Is it the sort of thing arts organizations are increasingly concerned about? Is it something that in the past they had people on staff that could handle this sort of thing? Talk about the need and why this is even required out there.

Robin Hanson: I think that there's a misconception- that some folks have- that you've got arts organizations and they do great things doing artwork. They forget that behind the stage is a lot of business work that's going on. I think they have been so hard hit by the economy that there really isn't simply the time or the resources to do some of these pieces. For example, one of the groups wants to know how to make a more robust volunteer program. So to be able to take a staff person probably doing something else, and something else and something else, and saying, by the way, in your spare time, could you develop a volunteer program for us- it just really isn't going to happen. There are people in the business community who know how to develop a volunteer program.

Ted Simons: So who are these people in the business community?

Robin Hanson: Well, I managed a volunteer program for a corporation here in the Valley for almost years. I've gone to my peers, folks at Intel, folks at Salt River Project and Arizona river service and said, I know you have great volunteers and great skilled folks in your business departments who probably never thought they had a skill a nonprofit could use. It's not every day someone goes into a marketing department and says hey, We've got a great volunteer opportunity for you, you're not packing lunchboxes, you're helping an organization put together a marketing plan for the next year. That's the kind of volunteer we're looking for.

Ted Simons: You're looking at marketing plans, strategic plans, developing an employee handbook.

Robin Hanson: All of those pieces. We have folks who are- I've got a couple people sort of in the queue, we just launched yesterday. We're got a couple of people that we're priming the pump with who have come to us and said, we would love to do this. They're active employees, it's not as if it's retirees or someone at the end of their career. There are people saying, I have a skill, I'd like to share it, what do I need to do.

Ted Simons: How is the matching done? And who makes the match?

Robin Hanson: I get to make the match.

Ted Simons: Good for you!

Robin Hanson: I know, I feel really special about that. Think of it in terms of doing dual recruiting, I'm recruiting volunteers to be consultants, and I'm recruiting organizations looking for consultants. It's that venn diagram where the sweet spot is right in the middle. And we can find folks who have the time to meet the needs the organization has. We expect the projects to take maybe 90 days to 12 months. If you do a strategic plan you want to see it through the entire piece.

Ted Simons: These are not open-ended then?

Robin Hanson: No, we want them to have a finish date. A professional coming into an organization, they are getting someone helping them do something, same as if they had to go out and hire someone.

Ted Simons: Are you recruiting and do business groups and do arts organizations have to apply in some way?

Robin Hanson: They do, they can go to our website and click on get connected and there are two applications. One if you want to be a consultant, just what we call the folks who are volunteers. Or two, if you want to get a consultant. And we've tried to make the applications as painless as possible. I interviewed six arts organizations in the last probably six weeks and four of them when we got there said here are job descriptions. We've been waiting for you, here's what we're looking for.

Ted Simons: Wow.

Robin Hanson: They have got a stock of positions that, if someone came along and said hey, how would you like some free help.

Ted Simons: This program was on hiatus I understand for a year. What was that all about?

Robin Hanson: It was, the arts and business council had had it for many years. When funding dried up for all kinds of things, it dried up for the arts and business council. They had two great programs they ran, business on board and business volunteers for the arts. Arizona Citizens For The Arts took over, Business on Board and Business Volunteers for the Arts went to the alliance of Arizona Non Profits. This year Wells Fargo and their Neighborhood Lift Foundation grant came in and Arizona Citizens For The Arts took advantage of that foundation money, went out and hired me to come in and run this business launcher for the arts program.

Ted Simons: I would imagine overall, when the economy does well businesses are a little looser and more free, I guess with their folks? Or is that necessarily the case?

Robin Hanson: I don't think so. When I go in to talk to a business, I'm talking about things like succession planning and how a volunteer can develop the skills they need to move up the ladder through volunteering. I'm talking about leadership development. It could be someone you're putting in a fast track for your organization, but you want them to have experience outside of your organization. So there are some great pieces of leadership development that not everyone thinks of when you're talking about a volunteer. But you're talking about a skilled volunteer, someone with three to five years of experience in their field. I think there's a real opportunity. I also think there's a value in the independent sector giving us a value for what volunteering is worth. These aren't the $21, $22 per hour volunteers. These are people who average about $125 per hour. The value is both to the organization, to be able to provide that pro bono service. But we're also really excited about being able to say to the arts organization, this is what you've got, almost an in-kind donation.

Ted Simons: And see where that leads to other things.

Robin Hanson: Exactly.

Ted Simons: Quickly one more time, the website address.

Robin Hanson:

Ted Simons: Very good, thank you so much for being here.

Robin Hanson: Thank you, this was great.

Robin Hanson:Business Volunteer, Arizona Citizens for the Arts;

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