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The Business Volunteers for the Arts (BVA) Consultancy Match Program recruits, trains and places volunteers from the business community to work with nonprofit arts organizations as management consultants. Volunteers are interviewed before they are invited to join the program. Arts and cultural organizations asking for BVA assistance go through a "management audit" to assess their needs. With that information, we make a careful match of a volunteer and an arts organization based on needs, skills, interests and personality.

Volunteer Training

New volunteers attend an orientation/training program that covers general issues related to arts management.  The program shows the volunteer how to use their business skills in ways that are relevant to non-profit arts organizations.  Participants learn consulting and problem-solving skills that they will apply when working with arts groups and can utilize in their professional careers as well. The training is conducted by current BVAs and leaders in the arts and covers:

  • Profile of Nonprofit Arts Organizations - how they differ from for-profits, why subsidy is needed, why they are important to the business community, the artist as manager, working with creative people, and the nature and role of the board of directors
  • Legal and Accounting Issues - to familiarize the volunteer with unique legal and accounting principles in nonprofit arts management
  • Fundraising - what is involved in fundraising; different sources of funds; what do foundations, government and corporate funders look for when making funding decisions
  • Marketing and Public Relations - the special characteristics of these as they relate to the arts
  • The BVA Experience - how to be successful as a volunteer consultant, what to expect from the experience

The training is held in the evening on three consecutive days. All volunteers are required to attend the training sessions before they are placed to work with a group. This training is key to the success of the BVA program and ensures that volunteers not only have strong business skills but also an understanding of the nonprofit arts and cultural sector. 

If you are interested in joining the dedicated and talented group of professionals currently helping arts and culture to thrive in Rhode Island.....

The next training will be held October 7th, 8th, and 9th, 2003.  INFORMATION

Arts Organization Management Audit

When an organization asks for assistance from BVA, the BVA program director conducts an in-depth "management audit" to determine how a volunteer management consultant can be most effectively utilized. Many factors affect this decision, such as: What is the level of development of the organization? What resources, including staff, budget, board contacts, does the organization have available to use for a project involving a BVA? What management problems does the organization face?

The management audit is conducted with the participation of staff members from the organization, but sometimes board members are involved as well. Of course, the audit information is kept strictly confidential. Based on this audit, we work with the organization to identify and set priorities on projects for BVA assistance. Then we begin looking for a BVA to place with the organization.

Matching - An Art Unto Itself

When the volunteers have been trained, arts organizations audited, and projects identified, we begin the matching process. We pay attention to many factors when making these matches, including:

· Arts/Cultural disciplines the BVA volunteer wants to work with
· Business skills of the BVA volunteer
· Management needs of the arts/cultural organization
· Time restrictions of the project and of the organization
· Personality fit of the BVA volunteer and arts/cultural organization contact

Identifying a match is just the beginning. Information on the organization is given to the volunteer along with a description of what the project will involve. If the volunteer is interested in working with the group, we set up a match meeting between the volunteer, staff from the arts/cultural organization, and the BVA program director.

At the meeting, the organization and the selected project are discussed. It is an opportunity for both the volunteer and organization to get to know one another. As often as not, the arts/cultural organization and BVA volunteer start working immediately, talking about the first steps of the project, timeline, how they will develop the necessary resources, etc.

At the end of this match meeting, a simple scope of work is prepared by the BVA program director and provided for approval to both the organization and the BVA volunteer. It gives everyone a clear understanding of what is being agreed to. From this point on, the organization and volunteer work directly on the project together.

BVA Placement

This process can take anywhere from a few weeks to many months. Because of the complexities of the matching process we cannot always operate first-come, first-served. Each BVA project is custom designed. The amount of time it takes depends on the availability of the right volunteer with the right skills - and the right arts group for the right volunteer. Some projects requiring highly specialized skills may take some time to find a qualified and interested volunteer. While we can sometimes respond to urgent needs, generally projects that must be addressed within a very short period of time may not be best served by this program.

In some cases, it is appropriate to place more than one BVA at a time with the same arts/cultural organization, working on separate projects or together as a team on one project. Business Volunteers for the Arts is not a one-time-only program. Many arts organizations come back to us time and time again with new projects. BVA volunteers, on the other hand, are almost always placed with just one client at a time.

The Project

The project itself can last anywhere from a few weeks to many months. Some of our volunteers, once placed, have remained with the same group for a number of years, working from one project to another. This kind of long-term relationship is obviously of great benefit to the organization, and is strongly encouraged. However, the often limited time of a volunteer is to be respected (they make an average commitment of three hours per week). They usually do not do projects that require intense short-term time commitments.

BVA Consultants & Board Membership

It is also a natural outgrowth of BVA involvement that some of our BVA volunteers are ultimately asked to become board members of the organization they assist. In general, BVA volunteers are asked not to join boards until they have completed their basic commitment to the BVA program of three hours a week for one year. They are also asked not to join the board of an organization they are working with until their project with that group is completed. This is in recognition of the fact that the value a BVA volunteer brings is often an outside perspective. Board membership changes this relationship and also leads to new responsibilities.

Ongoing Involvement with the BVA Office

BVA staff encourage both arts organizations and BVA volunteers to stay in contact - we have many resources that can be very useful in many projects. We also can refer other BVA volunteers, suggest other service organizations, and provide sample materials when needed.

Potential Problems

Sometimes the consultancy does not develop in the way the arts/cultural organization and volunteer expect. From our experience, we know that there can be many reasons for this, and it can sometimes be difficult for the organization and/or the volunteer to figure out what is going wrong. If this happens the BVA program director and staff are available to help pinpoint what has gone wrong and suggest ways to make corrections and keep the project on track.

Project Monitoring and Evaluation

Contact between the arts/cultural organization, BVA volunteer and BVA staff person is key to a successful consultancy. We encourage reciprocal communication between the BVA staff, organization and volunteer. Formally, the BVA staff tracks the progress of consultancies through phone calls, personal contact, and written program evaluation forms.


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