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Managing Transitions and Preserving Assets


Written and developed by Mollie Quinlan-Hayes and published by NCAPER, the National Coalition for Arts’ Preparedness and Emergency Response

Funded By

This project was produced by NCAPER with generous support from the National Endowment for the Arts to South Arts, the administrative home of NCAPER, and The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. 

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This Protecting Your Assets Toolkit offers guidance on making critical decisions about your arts or cultural organization’s structure and resilience, and how to preserve your assets whether you are growing, stable, contracting or suspending operations. Many resources have emerged recently to explore different aspects of arts and cultural organizations. This Toolkit focuses specifically on the organization’s overall structure and assets, rather than programming, to help you control your own destiny.


While this Toolkit was developed in the wake of COVID-19, it speaks to the evergreen dynamics involved in leading arts and cultural organizations. What we now realize is that many previous revenue models aren’t sustainable, and staff and Board composition may need to shift toward new skillsets and perspectives. You are always moving through an organization’s lifecycle and considering your future, whether you are facing challenges, holding solid and conducting standard strategic planning, or at a transition point. Whether you are back open, focusing on virtual activities, or hibernating for a time, you now have the opportunity to build greater resilience into your ongoing operations.


This Toolkit is designed so that you can move quickly to the content that applies to your current situation. The three sections of the Toolkit can be used individually or in combination, and don’t need to be followed sequentially. Explore them in any way that serves your organization best!


If you are uncertain what your organization’s future will or should be, your decision-making should be intentional, and steps need to be taken to preserve your assets. Section A, Guidance for Making Legal and Structural Choices, walks you through assessing your organization’s options in terms of legal, financial, HR and governance steps.


This Toolkit also addresses two significant gaps in the typical arts administrator’s portfolio, critical whether your organization is flourishing, static, or changing.

Staff knowledge and cross-training. Many of us are figuring out how to work with smaller teams, where individuals carry more load and the future remains uncertain. In Section B, Protecting Your Knowledge Assets, we offer a method to capture the knowledge held by founders and long-term staffers, to help free everyone from the “only-one-person-knows-how” trap.

Protecting your legacy. It is not yet common practice for arts organizations to protect and archive their assets. We need to recognize that the assets of our organizations are unique and deserve protection, no matter our organizational status. Your collections, sets, costumes, libraries, instruments, facilities, the business and historical records of your organization and other physical objects quickly come to mind. Less visible assets, but just as valuable, are your artistic legacy, community history and goodwill, along with your people’s knowledge and skills. Section C, Managing and Preserving Your Legacy, takes you through steps for any stage in your lifecycle.


August 2021


The information included in this Toolkit was culled from sources available to the public, with input and review by field and subject matter experts. Every effort was made to present current and correct information as of July, 2021. This Toolkit does not represent legal guidance, and is provided for informational purposes. The author and publisher cannot be responsible for any losses or failures users experience as a result of using this information.

This Toolkit Includes Material From:

The American Association for State and Local History, Amy Schindler/University of Nebraska at Omaha (UNO) Libraries, Arts Advisory Board, Association of Academic Museums and Galleries, Bancroft Library/University of California at Berkeley, Beth Kattelman/Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee Theatre Research Institute at Ohio State University,, Christopher Hochstetler/Stuhr Museum, Deborah Gilpin/Madison Children’s Museum, Deloitte, Edgepoint, the Glendale Star, Greg Hunter/Council of Nonprofits, Harvard Business Review, the Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety, Jean-Phillipe Malaty and Tom Mossbrucker/Aspen/Santa[MQH1]  Fe Ballet, Jeanne Bell and Steve Zimmerman/Nonprofit Sustainability, Judy Polacheck/Polacheck HR Law LLC, Krystal Siebrandt, HBE LLP, LaRue Allen/Martha Graham Dance Company, Leigh Grinstead/LYRASIS, Michael Ibrahim and the MassCultural Council, Mindtools, Oral History Association, Performing Arts Readiness, Stephanie Mattoon/Baird Holm Attorneys at Law, Stephanie Plummer and the Nebraska Arts Council, Susana Smith Batista, Voice of Witness, the Wallace Foundation and AEA Consulting. Thanks to Beth Kattelman, Claire West, Deborah Gilpin, Leigh Grinstead, Lynn Dates and Stephanie Plummer. Special thanks to Jan Newcomb/NCAPER, and Tom Clareson, Performing Arts Readiness project. Design by Lynn Dates.

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