Kennedy Heights Arts Center – Challenge Semi-Finalist

Kennedy Heights Arts Center during their Annual Art Parade.

Our adaptive challenge

Because grants and charitable contributions are limited and cannot solely support our growing operating costs, and our commitment to inclusivity precludes us from charging admission or collecting program fees from all participants, Kennedy Heights Arts Center will therefore create new, sustainable ways of earning revenue through social enterprise.

Why it is important that our organization address this challenge, and why now?

In order to not only sustain our current activity but to grow and expand, it is vitally important that we develop reliable sources of earned revenue. In order to be true to our mission and to create the kind of inclusive atmosphere we envision, we need to look to other sources of earned revenue beyond the traditional admission, ticket, or program fees.

What are the foundational assumptions that have reliably predicted success in the past that we are now questioning?

In the past, we have assumed that we could provide free programming for all and support our total operating expenses through grants and contributions. Kennedy Heights Arts Center was very fortunate to receive substantial support from one individual donor in the early years of the organization, but that donor recently passed away. Our relationship with this “angel” has been both a blessing and a curse – it enabled us to grow quickly and develop a full range of programs, but caused a certain amount of reliance on one source of income which is not sustainable for the long-term.

What is the evidence that is causing us to question our assumptions?

While we are fortunate to have a committed and growing base of donors, and foundation grants are a great source for one-time program support, it is difficult to support all of our operating costs on charitable contributions alone. Healthy and successful nonprofit organizations have diversified sources of support that include a balance of contributed and earned revenue. Furthermore, investors are increasingly expecting nonprofits to become more self-sustaining.

What are the bold new directions we are imagining for our organization?

We are seeking to develop new sources of earned revenue through social enterprise – that is, a business operated by a nonprofit with the dual purpose of generating income by selling a product or service in the marketplace and creating a social or cultural value. We are working in partnership with two other nonprofits to redevelop a vacant, former grocery store adjacent to our facility. This opportunity will allow us to add 9,000 square feet of space, which could be utilized for social enterprise. Ideas include creating rentable artist studios and a multi-purpose event center. We realize that the business strategies we are focusing on are top-of-mind solutions and we would like to continue to explore other, more innovative strategies.

Our vision of success

Kennedy Heights Arts Center strives to be the anchor of an increasingly vibrant, diverse, inclusive and creative community. Our goal is to produce high-quality art programs that: promote interaction across generations and all cultural and economic groups, spark community dialogue, create opportunities for joyful discovery and collaboration, and make the arts affordable and accessible to everyone. Our vision of success includes being fully inclusive and engaging a very diverse audience, as well as achieving financial sustainability for the organization so that we can continue to serve our community.

Participants in a Kennedy Heights Arts Center program.
Serving more than 3,500 people annually, Kennedy Heights Arts Center offers rotating art exhibitions and arts education programs for youth and adults, among other outreach programs and community events. As a community-based art center, KHAC has a special focus on Kennedy Heights and the surrounding neighborhoods.