Toward the Future of Arts Philanthropy: The Disruptive Vision of Memphis Music Initiative

Toward the Future of Arts Philanthropy: The Disruptive Vision of Memphis Music Initiative

A thriving arts environment is essential for youth development and social justice, yet traditional approaches to arts philanthropy are insufficient to address the lack of access to arts programming for underserved youth of color, a report from the Memphis Music Initiative argues. The report, Toward the Future of Arts Philanthropy: The Disruptive Vision of Memphis Music Initiative (43 pages, PDF), outlines how MMI implemented a strategy — led by people of color, rooted in equity, and focused on communities, organizations, and practitioners excluded from traditional funding processes — to provide direct programming while also funding nonprofits serving youth living in poverty. In its work from 2014-16, MMI employed four primary strategies to achieve success: in-school programming; strategic growth grants in support of extended learning; community cohort grants in support of innovation spaces; and an Institute for Nonprofit Excellence (INE), which focused on executive-level leadership. In 2017, 95 percent of MMI's grants were awarded to organizations led by people of color, and half of all its grantees had annual budgets under $100,000. The report also highlights the challenges of scaling MMI's "disruptive philanthropy" model, including the need to have a genuine understanding of the community's needs and to tailor the process to meet those needs.