5 Things Arts Organizations Can Do Right Now to Combat the Effects of COVID-19

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We’re in the midst of a scary and unprecedented time, and it’s especially critical for artists and arts organizations to think and strategize outside the box while also keeping up to date and informed with available resources.    Organizations and independent or emerging artists are not only scrambling to pivot their operations, but there are also very real concerns about what they can do to survive during this time.

In this post, we’ll take a look at 5 things artists and arts organizations can do right now to combat the effects of COVID-19, including a wealth of resources you can use and inspiring examples of how other organizations are making sustainable choices that will help them survive AND thrive!

1. Get Clear on Your Cash!

The first, and arguably most important thing you can do is determine how much cash you have on hand and how far that will take you.  Reports suggest less than 25% of nonprofits have more than 6 months worth of operating expenses in reserve cash, with most reporting closer to 3 months cash in reserve accounts.  

Complete a cash flow projection for a month, including cash on hand, expected revenue, and projected expenses.  This will help you better understand what your critical next steps are in terms of securing financing, as well as take into account any changes that can be made to reduce your expenses in the short-term.  If your organization has a reserve account, it should also have guidelines in place regarding reserve payback and allowable usage.  

Grab your Cash Flow Tool from the Nonprofit Finance Fund here!

2. Think outside the box to prevent additional expenses or cash reduction

Artists and arts-based organizations are going to take an especially heavy blow to their incoming revenue due to the cancellation of galleries and events, many of which have likely been selling tickets in advance.  An influx of refund requests from ticket purchasers will just dwindle your finances faster. To combat this, South Dakota Arts Organizations are transforming canceled tickets into organization donations.  


Michigan radio station WDET 101.9 FM has compiled a list of arts and culture organizations seeking support and is encouraging the community to make donations to their favorite organizations. Check with networking or community contacts to see if there is a local list in your area your organization can be a part of, or band together and create your own partnership to make this happen!

3. Take advantage of financial assistance if possible, and where it makes sense

On March 27, 2020, the $2 Trillion CARES act (Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security) was passed by Congress.  

The package includes $300 million in economic relief to support nonprofit cultural organizations like museums, libraries, public broadcasting, and state and local arts and humanities agencies, as well as for nonprofit organizations and small businesses. 

It also includes $260 billion in enhanced and expanded unemployment insurance (UI) to thousands of creative workers throughout the country who are being furloughed, laid off, or finding themselves without work through no fault of their own. Learn more about the CARES act and what it means for nonprofits here.

Individuals can learn more about amended unemployment laws and get information on applying here.

While taking out a loan is not the most ideal option here, if it makes the difference between closing your doors temporarily or for good, it’s certainly something worth considering.  Just like there should be guidelines in place for paying back reserve accounts, if a loan is truly your best or only option, you will also need to factor in loan payments and interest rates in your future cash flow projections.

Loan Assistance for Arts Organizations:

SBA Economic Disaster Assistance

US Dept of Treasury Paycheck Protection Assistance (part of the CARES act) 

Grants and Aid for Artists

Check out our list of 78 Emergency Grants and Resources for Artists for more!

4. Review your HR practices and administrative policies

Many states are enforcing closures which only allow employees of “essential” businesses to report to work.  Luckily, our digital age provides us with plenty of opportunity to pivot operations and continue operating with many organizations moving to work-from-home models.  If this is an option for your organization, make sure your telecommuting policies are up to date and made clear to employees. Review your insurance policy or contact your provider for more information on whether or not your business interruption or liability insurance includes any coverage for a public health outbreak in your community. 


For more information, check out the EEOC’s (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission) helpful guide about pandemic preparedness in the workplace and the Americans with Disabilities Act.

5. Stay connected with your audience

Another benefit to our digital world is the increased opportunity to remain connected with our audience and stakeholders, even when we’re not operating “business as usual”.  Both for- and nonprofit organizations alike are taking advantage of virtual platforms to host events. In China, museums and attractions are responding to closures by releasing educational games and digital artworks, and the cancellation of Art Basel Hong Kong – which would have prevented hundreds of millions of dollars in art sales – prompted digital viewing rooms allowing artists who were planning on traveling to Hong Kong to show their works on a digital platform. Local arts organizations like Zygote Press, CAN Journal, and CIFF have already pivoted their programming to provide the nourishment of art digitally. 

Along with providing frequent communication, leaders of arts and cultural organizations should be transparent about how this is affecting their organization.  Staff and community supporters want to help!  Always provide factual information, but don’t be afraid to be creative!  Check out The Smithsonian’s “Outbreak” exhibit here!

Additional Resources for Artists and Arts Organizations:

Expert Tips on Keeping Your Audience during the Coronavirus outbreak

Take the Impact Survey

Rauschenberg Emergency Grants Program

Arts Cleveland Creative Compass

Resources from the National Endowment of the Arts

Have you or a nonprofit organization you work with found innovative ways to deliver your programs and provide your social good during these times? We’re collecting and sharing these stories – and want to hear from you!  Tell us your story here!

Sangfroid Strategy helps organizations learn from where they’ve been, figure out where they want to go, and map out what they need to do to get there. We are experts when it comes to helping organizations build resiliency and move through difficult times and navigate complex situations.

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