Week Ending May 29, 2010: The Nonprofit Tax Man Cometh?


Assorted commentary below on arts and politics stories, issues and trends from the previous week.

As a reminder, this column is a variation on the cheers-or-jeers, who’s-up-who’s-down, plus-or-minus columns that used to encapsulate a week’s worth of news into something squeezed into half a page of a weekly magazine.

Story continues below.

Rise = more likely we will still be talking about this topic next week.
= less likely we will still be talking about this topic next week.

As always, we welcome your commentary plus any suggestions on improving this feature.

If This Story Is True, The Contest for “Dumbest School Principal Ever” Has a Winner
Read this post. Now, I’m not automatically assuming this news story about a school principal refusing grant money for an arts program is completely beyond reproach — we’ll never know because said principal chose not to comment. But even if the basics of the story are true, this is thoroughly outrageous. What galls me — and what should gall anyone with a child, anyone who wants their child being raised in a rational world — is the anonymous source at the top of the post, which is basically saying that the principal who refused grant money for an arts program shouldn’t be blamed because the system forced her to. What a bunch of baloney. For shame.
Verdict: Fall.

Picture President Obama Calling Arts Funding a “Duty,” Not an “Option.” Welcome to the UK
This is a fairly tart preview of what the new UK coalition government will be doing with arts funding. The differences between cultural support there and in the US couldn’t be more starkly outlined. Despite the fact that the UK is getting ready to trim 66 million pounds — that’s about $96.1 million — from the cultural budget, this piece makes it clear that certain policy elements, starting with the national lottery (which we yanks haven’t even seriously considered), ought to remain in place. Still, it’s unfathomable to imagine President Obama uttering the words of Nick Clegg, now the deputy prime minister: “Arts funding is a duty, not an option for any government.” I mean, the teabaggers would need medics.
Verdict: Rise.

Just How Dynamic Is “Dynamic Pricing”?
I caught an interesting post at 2am Theatre about the all-upside, no-downside — or so they say — of dynamic pricing, which holds, and here I’m being obscenely broad and reductive, that one can “build in stepped price increases” into a ticketing system that becomes “activated when capacity hit[s] certain key markers.” In other words, the more you sell, the more you charge. All right, I’m up for the discussion, but I’d like to see more evidence — especially evidence that isn’t circumstantial and, more than that, evidence that isn’t presented by people with a fiduciary interest in hawking the benefits of dynamic pricing. Which will leave precisely no one able to have an objective discussion. Meantime, what is more interesting to me is the apparent lack of unanimity in the comments section of the aforementioned post. Maybe it is a world-of-Chicago trust-us-it’ll-work thing, I don’t know. I don’t know that it’s odd for some key marketers find fault, or at least some concern, with the idea of dynamic marketing — doesn’t the lack of agreement really mean we can’t just reduce market forces to axiomatic reflexes? Seems to me we don’t live in a world in which the arts as a business should be searching for cure-alls but rather multiple solutions to a whole spectrum of challenges.
Verdict: Rise.

Nonprofits: Start Getting Ready to Get Taxed. Seriously.
Golly, times are very, very, very bad. And there is going to be a tremendous amount of agita, hand-wringing, hysteria and Henny Penny the-sky-is-falling chatter if the idea of imposing fees on nonprofits really takes hold. And of course nonprofits, especially very large arts nonprofits, are going to be low-hanging fruit for state governments that have cut well into the bone and have no choice in this economy but to raise revenue or to get all California-like and just declare bankruptcy. People cling to the idea that the nonprofit business model still works. Wish it did but it’s in terrible shape.
Verdict: Rise.