The Show Must Go On!

The East Bay Center for the Performing Arts (the “Center”) in Richmond, CA has long been a client of PRG. The Center provides access to the arts to over 4,000 kids ages 3 – 18 through instruction in dance, music, theater and digital arts. Historically, instruction is done in both in the schools in Richmond, as well as at EBCPA’s beautiful site in the historic Winter’s Building in downtown Richmond.

Reaching nearly 9 months into COVID, we are thrilled with their abilities to support their many student families and their move to a virtual instruction model to keep the youth in Richmond performing and dancing, maintaining their expressive outlets to inspire during these difficult times. During this unprecedented year, the Center also went above and beyond to find support for basic living essentials.

Rapid Program Pivot

When COVID hit, the Center recognized quickly staff had to rethink their approach in order to continue their services. Miraculously, within a week or so, 90% of their programs and services were converted into a virtual educational platform. It was a steep learning curve for the staff and faculty with regards to technology, and the transition, while short, was not without its bumps. The team worked diligently to get Faculty set up to be able to work from home, and students were supported and educated on how they were going to receive instruction from home. The local schools did their best to get laptops to students in need, and the Center set up times for students to safely pick up instruments they would be borrowing for the foreseeable future.

Going Beyond the Dance to Meet Basic Living Needs

Thanks to a generous early donor, the Center made cash available to help directly support local families experiencing an immediate crisis for food and housing insecurity, as well as challenges with legal, medical, and government aid access. The faculty jumped-in to provide emotional health support along with tutoring and academic assistance to its students while primary and secondary schools remain closed.

Weeks Turned to Months – More Offerings of Support

During the critical college application process for high school seniors, the Center staff supported 22 senior students this spring through their final application processes, financial aid applications, and the results were all students were accepted and went onto college this fall. A huge win!

Over the summer, the Center pivoted from its normal 8-5pm Summer Intensive Program with diploma students, to open tuition-free group classes. Staff realized how important it was for Faculty to continue to support the kids through the challenges of COVID, understanding their isolation and economic challenges. Fortunately, due to the connection and care the Faculty focused on, only a few students overcome by virtual fatigue, dropped out of the program.

An In-Person to Virtual Gala Event – a HUGE Success!

On September 24, 2020, the Center held their 10th Annual fall Gala. Normally the event is limited to 150 people, the maximum their facility can hold, and the event usually raises around $250K.

This year, like many organizations, the Center pivoted to a virtual event. The new format enabled many more eager supporters to participate. Board, staff and parents hosted virtual tables, and more than 500 people donated to the Center, netting $320K! Videos highlighted Center students, alumni, renowned faculty artists, social justice leaders and their family of supporters. The gala, a mix of pre-recorded and live presentations, highlighted the beauty and resilience of the students in the power of the performing arts to heal.

See the recording of this dynamic event.

Looking Forward

Realizing how the forced move to a virtual platform opened up their audience and donor base, staff will continue to offer a hybrid of live and virtual programs going forward. In an effort to build their virtual capabilities, the Center created a task force to help them map out their needs to thrive in a virtual world, not only around the programs they offer, but potentially inclusive of the needs of their community they serve as they have done this year. They also plan to hire tech help to upgrade their website, train Faculty in virtual platforms, and build out their services in this new online environment.

CONGRATULATIONS to the Center’s staff, faculty and students on such a successful pivot and going above and beyond to meet the needs of their communities and on so many levels of their students and family needs!



DEI – What is the Measure?

Contributed by Amira (Mira) Barger, MBA,CVA,CFRE, PRG Associate – Philanthropy & DEI 

“In the years I have been here, nice has not translated into upward mobility, pay equity, or new opportunities.”

We are the “nice” sector. Nice nonprofits, made up of nice people, doing nice things and putting nice into the world. I’m sorry to be the one to tell you, but “nice” simply isn’t enough. It doesn’t move us towards the change we need. There is no accountability in nice. It is not the measure.

Incremental change is nice. It is gentle and slow. But incremental change by nice people, no matter how well-intentioned, will not overcome the deliberate harm and exclusion wrought on the communities that we as a sector exist to serve – and even the harm being done within our own organizations. I am saddened, though not surprised, by the number of conversations that I have had of late regarding experiences that people are having where nice is not getting the job done. A few examples from my network across the nonprofit sector:

  • My boss is nice and says nice things about me. But…In the years I have been here, nice has not translated into upward mobility, pay equity, or new opportunities.
  • My advocacy group has fought for the rights of Black residents in our city and encountered opposition from nice folks who deem our efforts to be futile and divisive. They did not shout or call names, because we are a nice city. But…nice has not translated into safety for Black residents, a seat on city council, or opportunity to be in “the room where it happens”.
  • I had a nice board member ask how I managed to make my way into my current role. They were nice in their tone and mannerisms, nice enough to not stir a reaction from others in the room who heard it. But…nice has not translated into action from our board on crafted DEI programs, intentional understanding of the communities we serve, or any ounce of belief that someone young, gifted and Black could have actually earned their way.

Here are some steps we can each take to work towards our organizations being more than nice – and truly accountable. I’ve borrowed some phases commonly used in design-thinking to help create a framework for us to think through and serve as guide posts:

5 Tips on How to Create Accountability

  1. Start with preparation As a leadership team, utilize experts in the field of DEI and Anti-racism (they are not the same!) to chart a path that reflects the goals and priorities of your organization. Put together measurable steps that address DEI as you move toward your goals.
  2. Discover In collaboration with your employees, your board, your partners – and with those you serve! – look at your organization from different perspectives to gather insights and seek out opportunity areas for growth.
  3. Define – Agree to a problem statement as a collective of stakeholders, and then work to organize your priorities. Which matters most? Which should we act on first? What is feasible short-term vs long-term? The goal here is to develop a clear direction that frames the fundamental challenges and opportunities and highlights intersections.
  4. Develop – Now that you’ve identified your priorities, conceptualize a solution, develop a prototype of that solution, and then test and retest continuously. DEI and Anti-racism are practices – things you do daily, over-and-over. Accept that trial and error is a necessary part of the process. It helps us to improve and refine ideas to make sure we are actually addressing the issues at hand and are moving forward to create the radical change we need.
  5. Deliver — As you move through this process we are working towards a resulting plan that will be finalized, produced, and launched. The plan should have clear milestones, objectives and checkpoints that keep stakeholders aware of consequences, accountable to progress and radical change.

It’s true, our sector is a nice place to work, with nice people, and we want to take steps to make sure that everyone is able to enjoy what it has to offer. Through being intentional in action and held accountable by one another, we can build a sector that ensures an equity-centric approach to our work and reflects the priority of our sector – to move and act in service to those communities most impacted by the systemic inequities in our nation.

We have the opportunity to be an example of what a sector that takes anti-racism, diversity, equity, and inclusion seriously can look like, and can be a leader in saying and showing that “nice” is not good enough.

Read our previous two blog posts (So What?) (4 Key Questions to Ask) in this three-part series on anti-racism and DEI in the nonprofit sector.

Your homework:

Photo by Robert Katzki on Unsplash