A powerful call to action - Remember the Little Red Hen

“If your organization enjoys the benefits of public funding for the arts, will you raise your voice in support of legislation that increases the allocation of public dollars at the federal, state, and local levels?”

We may not know the story by name, but all of us have heard of a tale similar to that of the Little Red Hen. In short, a small bird asks her fellow animals for help baking bread but is denied assistance and completes the work on her own. Only when she has finished and the bread is made do all the animals rush in to offer their help and take a share of the finished product.

This story is the basis of a call-to-action released on February 24th, 2014, by Bob Booker, the Executive Director of the Arizona Commission on the Arts. Aimed primarily at the board members of arts organizations in Arizona, his message is applicable nationwide.  

Booker’s plea goes out to nonprofit organizations fortunate enough to have on their boards individuals who are prominent members of their communities – individuals who are CEOs of companies, donors to political campaigns, or just people who have become leaders in local areas. These are the people that have the privilege and power to instigate change.

When the board of a nonprofit requests more money or funding and Booker has to decline their request, he reminds them that while there is the problem of not having enough funding, this is a symptom, not the cause of the problem. The cause is that legislators voted against allocating more public funds to the arts: 

“When I remind the board members that their legislators have voted against public funding, many of them seem not to have previously considered the connection between legislative action and available public funding for the arts. Moreover, board members frequently seem entirely oblivious to their own role in determining the amount of funding that is available to the arts in general and to their organization in particular.”

Funding for the arts has to come from somewhere, and in large part, that's up to the legislature.

Booker asks these board members to raise their voice and ask their legislators to vote for more funding for the arts. Booker not only requests that they raise their vote in support of more funding but also to give voice to those whose go unheard: the smaller nonprofits, the artists, and the educators. These are individuals who will not be heard or helped but can be if prominent community members are willing to provide a megaphone.  

“You know how essential these funds are to your organization and you know the great benefits your organization delivers to your community. What would your community look like without your organization? What would your organization look like without public funding? Would it survive? For how long? How much does this support mean to your organization? Is this funding worth pursuing, worth fighting for? Is it worth asking for? Is it worth demanding?” 

Board members of nonprofits cannot be like the Red Hen's fellow animals: they should not simply wait for the funding to be approved, then swoop in and ask for their share. They need to use their influence and relationships to petition legislators to increase the total funding available for not only their nonprofit, but for all the other organizations and artists whose voices are not heard in their community. Then, we won't just have bread for a few people; there will be more than enough to go around and help everyone succeed. 

3,000 miles away from Arizona, in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, the message is just as powerful. Local leaders and supporters of the arts can influence change by going straight to the source and asking legislators to vote in support of legislation that will increase the amount of funding that is allocated for the arts. That is the only way to give voice to the voiceless and continue to give those who create the ability to unleash their spark on a whole new level.

Read his full article here on the National Assembly of State Arts Agencies (NASAA) website! 

If you're interested in getting involved with your local community and joining MASSCreative's fight to increase the funding for the Massachusetts Cultural Council for FY 2015, check out our Keep up the Momentum page to find a community meeting near you!  

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