Business and legal volunteers for the arts bring their knowledge and resources to your arts practice or creative business.
Lean on our business and legal experts for advice so you have more time to dedicate to your creative practice. Pittsburgh-area professionals volunteer their expertise in law, financial and strategic planning, marketing, information technology, human resources and more, all while helping ensure your project is a success.
Are you interested in applying as an individual artist?
Assistance is available to individual artists who are residents of Allegheny County, have an income level below 250% of the federal poverty level, as defined every January by the US Department of Health & Human Services, and have a request that is directly related to your personal arts practice.
Are you applying as an arts organization or creative business?
Our skilled volunteers will help both non-profit and for-profit organizations throughout Southwestern Pennsylvania with arts-related business or legal issues. Assistance is available to arts organizations with an operating budget of less than $1,000,000 in the most recently completed fiscal year.
Proof of income, such as a tax return, must be submitted with the application in order to verify eligibility.
Business and Legal Issues Covered
INDIVIDUAL ARTISTS AND ORGANIZATIONS: Receive hands-on guidance through the process of writing a business plan for your art business or organization. Business plan development typically includes strategies for implementing a new product, service, or business venture, or assessing the viability of current program offerings in the local market. The plan will identify goals both for revenue and artist statement fulfillment.
INDIVIDUAL ARTISTS AND ORGANIZATIONS: A volunteer consultant will perform an audit of your communications materials, including identity pieces (logo, letterhead, and signage), brochures, advertising, print and electronic newsletters, tickets and envelopes, websites, social media, press kits, email marketing, and press releases. The volunteer will recommend changes that will improve clarity and consistency of your design and messaging.
Accounting System Review
ARTS ORGANIZATIONS: A volunteer consultant will review the organization’s accounting system and suggest ways it can run more efficiently and with the proper internal controls. Accounting processes and procedures to be reviewed include: the chart of accounts, posting of gifts and grants, payroll, accounts payable/receivable, reconciliations, and internal controls.
INDIVIDUAL ARTISTS AND ORGANIZATIONS: Have a legal volunteer review an arts-related contract — either yours or one you’re considering signing — to ensure you fully understand the terms and conditions.
Copyrights and Trademarks
INDIVIDUAL ARTISTS AND ORGANIZATIONS: If you’re encountering issues with copyrighting or trademarking your artistic content, a legal volunteer can assist you in the appropriate steps to protect your creative property.
ARTS ORGANIZATIONS: Are you interested in implementing or improving your Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system? CRMs gather data from all of your constituents (ticket-buyers, donors, vendors, volunteers, etc.) into one streamlined system. The consultant will help the organization understand its data management needs, will help to choose an appropriate CRM solution, and will advise on how to organize existing data for transition into the CRM.
ARTS ORGANIZATIONS: A volunteer attorney will provide advice regarding disputes in the arts community. Volunteer attorneys emphasize resolving disputes with negotiations and mediation rather than adversarial lawsuits.
Human Resources and Employment Issues
INDIVIDUAL ARTISTS: Gain advice on employment law policies and practices such as employment contracts, independent contractor status, and employment disputes.
ARTS ORGANIZATIONS: A volunteer consultant will review the organization’s financial reporting needs and help to create customized report templates for board meetings, funding proposals, donor solicitations, the PA Cultural Data Project (PACDP) profile, and more. The consultant may then suggest changes that would help the organization with financial reporting moving forward.
INDIVIDUAL ARTISTS AND ORGANIZATIONS: A volunteer consultant will guide you through the process of writing a strategic marketing plan, which defines communications goals, objects, target markets, creative strategies, and the most effective communication vehicles for your art business.
Social Media Plans
INDIVIDUAL ARTISTS AND ORGANIZATIONS: A volunteer consultant will help you write a social media plan that identifies goals and measurable objectives for each platform. The volunteer will also train you and any other partners on how to use analytics tools as necessary.
Nonprofit and For-Profit Startups
INDIVIDUAL ARTISTS AND ORGANIZATIONS: Receive assistance in identifying the appropriate legal entity for an artist and preparing the formation documents. The volunteer attorney will also provide advice about good governance practices. Volunteer attorneys can also assist in the preparation of the application to the IRS to qualify for nonprofit status.
Employment Law Issues
ARTS ORGANIZATIONS: Get advice on employment law policies and practices, including independent contractor status, employment contracts, and employment handbooks.
Retreats for Boards and Staff
ARTS ORGANIZATIONS: Receive a customized retreat plan for your board and key staff members. During the retreat, the board and staff can dig into key strategic and governance issues facing the organization. The organization will come away from the retreat with a renewed sense of mission and a focus on the challenges ahead.
ARTS ORGANIZATIONS: A volunteer consultant will guide the staff and board through the process of writing a strategic plan, which defines or redefines the direction of an organization (generally for the next two to five years). Strategic planning begins with a focus on the organization’s mission, vision, and values, establishes goals to support that mission, and identifies strategies to achieve the outlined goals.
ARTS ORGANIZATIONS: Get assistance with developing a technology plan for your organization. These plans determine the cost and optimal configuration of hardware, software, and technology services. The consultant can also review the technology policy to ensure adequate security, back-up procedures, document retention, and a disaster recovery plan.
Have a Different Need?
If you have a different business or legal need, please suggest it when you apply or contact firstname.lastname@example.org to discuss.
Frequently Asked Questions
How much does it cost to apply?
There is currently no charge for artists or organizations to apply for business and legal volunteer services.
Who is eligible to apply for assistance?
For individual artists: We base financial eligibility for pro bono service on 250% of the poverty level, as defined every January by the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. Proof of income, such as a tax return, must be submitted with the application in order to verify eligibility.
For arts organizations and creative businesses: Our Business and Legal Volunteer Assistance Programs focus on assistance to small to mid-sized arts organizations in Southwestern Pennsylvania. Business assistance is available to art organizations regardless of income. Legal assistance is, however, limited to arts organizations with an annual gross revenue of less than $1,000,000. Proof of income, such as a tax return or regularly prepared financial statements, must be submitted with the application in order to verify eligibility.
What types of cases are eligible?
Our business and legal assistance programs are available only for arts-related matters for clients located in Southwestern Pennsylvania.
What types of cases are not eligible?
The Arts Council retains the right to decline any request if we determine that it is not consistent with our vision, mission, or values. Accepting an application is not a guarantee that the Arts Council will be able to secure a volunteer to help.
Our business and legal assistance programs do not provide help for individuals who live outside of Southwestern Pennsylvania nor for individuals with non-arts related matters. These may include personal matters such as fundraising, landlord/tenant matters, divorces, unemployment compensation, criminal cases, where you have a statutory right to a public defender, and/or cases in which monetary damages/attorneys fees are recoverable.
If the damages you are seeking to recover are less than $8,000, you can represent yourself without an attorney in Small Claims Court before a magistrate. For matters where damages exceed $8,000, you may need to hire an attorney on contingency. To find an attorney, contact the Lawyer Referral Service of the Allegheny Bar Association.
Will I have to pay anything for this help?
The time and expertise of our skilled volunteers is free. However, you may be responsible for out-of-pocket expenses directly related to implementing your request or project. This may include printing of marketing materials, cost of advertisements, filing and copying fees. Your volunteer will review any out-of-pocket costs that may be involved in your request.
Interested in Volunteering?
The skills you use in your day job are highly sought after and could make a world of difference for our local arts community. From business needs such as finance, marketing and HR to legal assistance including contracts and non-profit designations, business professionals and lawyers are always needed in the arts community.
- Business volunteer
- Legal volunteer
Header image by Randall Coleman.