After several years of operating in the red, The ArtsCenter in Carrboro profited $143,695 in 2012.
The ArtsCenter’s board of directors temporarily eliminated the role of executive director in 2011 in the midst of financial troubles, and after a series of cutbacks and restructuring, the organization is beginning to see a positive change.
Long-term, non-mortgage debt
Total amount of the ArtsCenter’s current debt
Jay Miller, founder of the Shared Visions Foundation, an organization that assists local nonprofits, filled the executive director position without pay between May 2011 and April 2012.
“It was a difficult time because everyone was nervous about the possible outcome of the situation,” Miller said.
Miller said his time as interim executive director helped the ArtsCenter because he didn’t cost money and contributed a business approach to running the organization.
He also said a one-time anonymous $100,000 grant from the Nicholson Foundation helped the organization settle debts.
“I was looking for ways to improve the business side of The ArtsCenter,” Miller said.
“But I really believe the most valuable thing I did was helping to bring in Art Menius.”
Menius, the current executive director, was brought on the team in April 2012.
When Menius came on, he said, continuing to implement cutbacks was not his main function.
“Rather than cutting back, I’ve been slowly turning the spigots on again as our situation improves,” Menius said.
“My job is to manage our growth as an organization and ensure that we are growing at a pace we can both maintain and sustain, and never get back into a position of financial irresponsibility.”
Natalie Griffin, accounts director at The ArtsCenter, said she attributes strong leadership from both Miller and Menius and a tighter budget as reasons for The ArtsCenter’s turn-around.
“He has worked with organizations similar to ours in the past and really seems to be a great part of moving forward in a healthy financial situation,” Griffin said.
While Menius said he has not had to make many cuts, the position of concerts director was recently eliminated.
“The cost of a per-concert basis was just too high for The ArtsCenter,” Menius said.
He said The ArtsCenter typically shows 28-30 concerts per year, and in order to justify a full-time concerts director, the organization would need to host at least 120 concerts per year.
Menius also said the way The ArtsCenter approaches its budgeting has drastically changed.
“Like many nonprofits when they get in trouble, The ArtsCenter had gotten into funding through spreadsheet optimism rather than hard numbers,” Menius said.
“We got out of that bad habit of just upping your projected revenue in order to spend more money.”
While it is not ideal to be operating with a bottom-line deficit, Griffin said there is a light at the end of the tunnel.
“It’ll take us some time to dig ourselves out, but if we can continue to operate in the black, we will slowly but surely do that.”
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