Business and legal volunteers for the arts bring their knowledge and resources to your arts organization or creative business for free.
If you are an arts organization, existing or just starting up, our business and legal assistance programs connect you with experienced volunteers in expertise areas of the law, financial and strategic planning, marketing, information technology, and human resources.
Arts Council staff take the time to understand your needs from the very beginning and will match you with a volunteer or volunteers who can help you achieve your goals in achievable timeframes.
Header image courtesy of The Frick Pittsburgh.
Access Our Business or Legal Volunteers
Application fee: $35 for Arts Council members, $50 for non-members
Our skilled volunteers will help both nonprofit 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.
If you are an art organization seeking assistance, please submit the following items using the links above, or print and email your application:
- A client application detailing the type of assistance you’re seeking.
- A copy of your most recent financial audit or other proof of operational budget. Your application will not be processed without some reasonable confirmation of your financial situation.
- Payment of the application fee - $35 for Arts Council members and $50 for non-members. Not a member? Visit our Membership section to learn more. The application fee may be paid using the payment link above or by check payable to the "Greater Pittsburgh Arts Council."
Once your materials are submitted, we will take the time to understand your unique needs and requests so that we can connect you to a volunteer for the arts who will help you accomplish your goals. At the end of your project, we will ask you to provide feedback via a short survey.
Business and Legal Issues Covered
Receive hands-on guidance through the process of writing a business plan for your art 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 mission fulfillment.
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
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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 on how to use analytics tools as necessary.
Nonprofit and For-Profit Startups
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.
A volunteer attorney will provide advice regarding disputes in the arts community. We emphasize resolving disputes with negotiations and mediation rather than adversarial lawsuits.
Employment Law Issues
Get advice on employment law policies and practices, including independent contractor status, employment contracts, and employment handbooks.
Retreats for Boards and Staff
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.
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.
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 Larry Castner to discuss.
Frequently Asked Questions
How much does it cost to apply?
For arts organizations, there is a $35 application fee if you are registered as a member of the Arts Council. For non-members of the Arts Council, the client application fee is $50. The fee can be paid online or by check payable to the Greater Pittsburgh Arts Council.
Who is eligible to apply for assistance?
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.
Do we need to a be a nonprofit to get assistance?
No. Our skilled volunteers will help both nonprofit for-profit organizations.
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 organizations who are located or primarily operate outside of Southwestern Pennsylvania nor for organizations with non-arts related matters. These matters may include requests like landlord/tenant matters, criminal cases, situations where you have a statutory right to a public defender, and/or cases in which monetary damages/attorneys fees are recoverable. We also do not assist with fundraising. Our volunteers should not be used as a short or long term substitute for staffing needs.
If the damages you are seeking to recover are less than $8,000, your organization can represent itself without an attorney in Small Claims Court before a magistrate. For matters where damages exceed $8,000, your organization 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?
Other than your application fee, 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.