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Creativity Matters: The Arts and Aging Toolkit
photo of two women singing, and one man singing and playing the piano (Stagebridge)

6.3: Securing Resources

Next to my family, certainly the musical activity is the most important thing in my life. New Horizons Music participant

Start by emphasizing revenue sources that make your program self-sustaining and offer a significant return on investment. You must be positioned to take advantage of opportunities, but you must also create opportunities by networking and “friend-raising.” Like assembling a jigsaw puzzle, look for revenue sources of different sizes and shapes that match what you want to accomplish. Then, gather evidence of impact and make your case logically and clearly. With perseverance, flexibility, creativity, and a little bit of luck, you can put all of the pieces together to support your work in enhancing older adults’ quality of life.

This section addresses:

Exploring Revenue Sources

The key to financial sustainability is diversity among revenue sources and types. For a larger and more established organization, having a variety of programs targeted at different populations positions you to take advantage of different funding opportunities. Whether you are a novice or an expert at generating revenue, be flexible, adaptable, and opportunistic.

Before devising a plan, consider these revenue options:

  1. Charge participants or attendees by selling tickets, charging tuition, and/or assessing membership fees.
    • Pay attention to prices of comparable programs.
    • Strategize how to keep prices as low as possible.
    • Decide whether or not to develop a multitiered pricing structure.
    • Decide whether or not to charge.
    • Decide what attendees and participants receive for their money.
    • Consider whether requiring a membership fee increases members’ buy-in to your organization and/or program and enhances its value in the minds of participants.
    • Decide whether to offer scholarships or financial aid to keep the program accessible to all.
      Examples of charging participants:
      • The Levine School of Music charges tuition; older adults pay 70 to 75 percent less than other students do. Prices align with nearby lifelong learning institutes and other comparable programs. The school makes up for the lower tuition with an increase in volume. Older adult classes, while still small enough to be effective, are sometimes twice as large as those with younger participants.
      • New Horizons Music programs charge approximately $150 per semester depending on the location, number of weekly sessions, and charges for comparable programs in the community.
      • The New Jersey Intergenerational Orchestra charges $200 for members under age 62, $85 for members over age 62, and $150 for members who also volunteer.
      • Creative Aging Cincinnati offers facility memberships to all retirement communities, senior centers, adult day care centers, and nursing homes in the community. Membership entitles a facility to attend all large-group programs (20 to 25 each year) and to schedule 6 to 12 in-facility programs a year. Periodic special incentives include guaranteeing attendance at a particular large-group program or putting the facility’s logo on printed materials.
  2. Contract for services with an arts organization, senior center, residential facility, or department of aging services or school system.
    • Develop fees on a sliding scale based on budget.
    • Charge for-profits more than nonprofits.
    • Subsidize nonprofits in part with the higher fees paid by for-profits.
    • Be flexible in how the fees are paid.
    • Be sure to incorporate all expenses in fees unless grants are subsidizing the program.
      Examples of fee structures:
      • The Senseabilities program of Elders Share the Arts charges $600 for staff only (half day), $1,200 for staff only (full day), and $1,000 for staff and elders (half day).
      • The Intergeneration Orchestra of Omaha charges sites $300 a performance. Sites pay in cash, through advertising in the orchestra’s printed program, from taking up a collection at the door, or by a combination of these methods. If the orchestra has to travel to perform, transportation costs are added to the fee.
      • The Center for Elders and Youth in the Arts charges nonprofits $4,000 to $5,000 a year and for-profits $7,000 to $8,000 a year. Fees include costs associated with high-quality exhibitions and performances.
  3. Apply for grants and contributions from federal, state, and local government agencies, united arts funds, foundations, and individuals.
    • Allow for a long lead time, perhaps as many as eight months between application and notification.
    • Consider whether the time and complexity of applying to a public entity such as a local or state arts agency is worth the potential return. Instead, consider using the common application form from the Foundation Center.
    • Consult with program staff at local and state arts and aging agencies, foundations, and corporations before you write your application and during the writing. Their job is to help you succeed. Ask them to advise on which program to apply to, and encourage them to collaborate internally across program areas.
    • Apply for your first grants from foundations and public agencies that fund only in your community, state, or region.
    • Seek funding from family foundations.
    • Attend grant panels convened by local and state agencies whether or not they are reviewing your application. If they are reviewing your application, bring an older adult participant in your program with you.
    • Apply in an entry-level category such as special projects for a modest amount of money to gain experience in grant writing. After a couple of applications, submit an application for more money in a different category, such as general operating support.
    • Ask participants to contribute to your program. The most effective method is a face-to-face request. Be sensitive to differences in resources; honor contributors regardless of the dollar amount that they give; use humor; and demonstrate good taste.
    • Ask participants’ family members and friends for support. Make it easy for them to do so through a targeted, printed appeal or in your printed materials. In addition, solicit audience members in person who attend the community sharing of the art.
    • Don’t be reluctant to ask for bequests or for gifts in honor of participants who have passed away.
      Examples of individual solicitations:
      • Kairos Dance Theatre includes a tear sheet at the bottom of its general information brochure.
      • The Intergeneration Orchestra of Omaha used bequests from members to establish an endowment as a way for friends and family members to honor someone’s memory. Contributors are invited to donate at six levels, from $1 to more than $1,000. The endowment awards two annual scholarships of $100, one to an older adult musician and one to a younger student who might otherwise not be able to pay the tuition. In five years, the endowment has grown to $10,000, with an ultimate goal of $25,000.
  4. Seek in-kind contributions from corporations, businesses, other nonprofits, and members of the public. These contributions typically happen quickly, with just a phone call or a letter, and can include drinks and food for special events, frames, floral centerpieces at galas, items or services for auctions or prizes, printing and photocopying, and art supplies.
    • One very helpful gift is physical space; churches often are home to arts and aging organizations. Municipal recreation facilities are another option. Kairos Dance Theatre, for example, trades workshops for space in a community park building. Make sure you know in advance exactly how your sponsors want to be recognized for their contributions.
  5. Explore other revenue sources.
    • Sell advertising space in printed programs, calendars, note cards, and art created by participants. Sales raise both money and public awareness.
    • Seek a line item in the municipal, county, or state budget from your elected representative. A line item is not a stable revenue source and is most appropriate for a special program or one-time event.
    • Hold special events such as benefit concerts and fundraising parties. Like sales, events raise both money and public awareness. Events, however, require significant time to plan and are often expensive to produce because glitz and glamour are hard to control. You have to decide if strengthening relationships and creating visibility—rather than raising money—are a large enough return on investment.

The flip side of raising revenue is controlling expenses:

Creating a Budget

To create your budget, be as comprehensive as possible. Make sure that income projections are realistic and a plan for raising the money is in place. Research actual costs, which vary by community and artistic discipline and are informed by the activities and instructional design. For a new organization or program, include start-up costs such as computer and phone equipment. In general, be pragmatic about the program’s scope, expenses, and revenue. Be “right-sized”: Keep financial needs minimal and in line with what you want to accomplish.

While a budget is a budget, whether your organization is focused on arts, aging, animals, or airplanes, some budget categories are unique to the arts (see Appendix 3 for a typical budget). Condense, expand, or adjust the following categories to fit your needs:



Developing a Plan

Next, create a resource development plan in consultation with stakeholders, particularly partners, staff, and board members. Multiple perspectives and ideas strengthen the plan, and those who participate in its creation are more invested in success and more likely to help.

Basic Planning Principles

Planning Strategies

Integrate a variety of strategies into your resource development plan. Consider these possibilities:

Foundation and Corporate Grantseeking

If your resource development plan includes grants from foundations or corporations, be sure that their giving priorities match your project. Follow these steps:

Making the Case

Whether you are asking for an in-kind donation from a business, discussing an individual contribution with an older adult participant, or writing an application for a public agency, foundation, or corporation, design your proposal to follow this progression:

  1. Identify a need. What is going on in the community or your organization that requires action?
  2. Propose a solution. What are you going to do about this need? What actions, specifically, are you going to take?
  3. Describe the impact. How will your actions change participants?
  4. Plan evaluation. How will you know whether your actions have changed participants? What qualitative and quantitative evidence will you amass and how?

Appendix 3 includes an example of a successful proposal.

Each funder will respond to a different rationale. In general,

As your rationale, begin with the benefits of arts participation to older adults. Then consider the following tips:

Understanding Challenges

A major challenge in resource development for the arts and aging field is its multiple focuses. It straddles two worlds—arts and health or social services—and a third world—education—if the program is intergenerational. It is difficult to be competitive in any one world unless you confidently and effectively communicate your role in enhancing older adults’ quality of life.

Arts and aging programs may also face these challenges:

Key Points about Resource Development


Download This Chapter


Appendix 1:
SWOT Analysis

Template Program Logic Model

Sample Program Logic Model

Appendix 2:
Project Timeline Formula and Curriculum Planning Format

Appendix 3: Fundraising Tools
Kairos Dance Theatre Brochure

New Horizons Budget

Kairos Dance Theatre Support Letters (1) (2)

Funding Proposal (Stagebridge)

Appendix 4: Marketing Tools
New Horizons Music Brochure