York Cultural Alliance: Community 'loud and clear' on new funding model

Lindsey O'Laughlin
York Dispatch
Greater York Dance will join the York Symphony Orchestra for its Holiday Pops Spectacular on Nov. 24.

After a yearlong listening project to gather input from artists, arts organizations, donors and other stakeholders in the community, the Cultural Alliance of York County has released its initial findings.

Kelley Gibson, spokeswoman for the cultural alliance, said the purpose of the listening project is to consult with the community in order to create a more beneficial funding model.

What they're hearing is that artists and arts organizations need more operational funding.

"It’s the hardest funding for any organization to get," she said. "It basically says, 'You’re doing good work, here’s dollars to use how you need to use them.'"

The reason operational funding is so valuable is that it's unrestricted, meaning an organization can put the money toward whatever project or expense is most urgent, as opposed to a grant that must be used for a specific project.

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The cultural alliance has eight partner agencies, including the Appell Center for the Performing Arts, the York History Center and the Greater York Center for Dance Education.

Funding will  be dispersed in 2019 through the current model, but Gibson said the alliance hopes to roll out a new funding model in 2020.

The Cultural Alliance has a new website, future-culturalyork.org, dedicated to the listening project, where viewers can read about the goals, initial findings and future track of the organization.

York countians also are encouraged to leave their own comments and suggestions for the alliance through the website.

The alliance is partnering with Design Quake, a York-based business consulting firm, to carry out the project.

Gibson said the cultural alliance pursued the listening project because alliance leaders realized that the corporate funding model had become outdated.

"Since we were founded in 1999, a lot of what we do today is sort of frozen in time in that moment," Gibson said. "It was a different York County then. It was a different group of corporate leaders then, and so we’ve changed a lot."

Gibson said a number of corporations have moved their headquarters out of York County, while other companies have moved in but don't know as much about the cultural alliance or its mission.

The landscape has changed, but the funding model — which is similar to the annual corporate giving campaign used by The United Way — hasn't.

Gibson said the first phase results of the listening project show that the corporate community still values and supports the cultural alliance, so corporate funding isn't going by the wayside, but there will be changes.

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How those changes will take shape remains to be seen, Gibson said, and the alliance will continue gathering input from the community to figure out the next steps.

"This is just the preliminary findings," Gibson said. "Now, we’re ready to ask the community as a whole, 'How can we as a cultural alliance pivot our organization to be more reactive to what’s going on in our community today?'"