You Don’t Know Entertaining

There has been a fair bit of evidence that people are not generally aware whether the place they are having their entertainment experience is a non-profit or for-profit business. An experience appeals to them and they participate. All those efforts invested in curating a balanced season of offerings may receive less recognition and appreciation than you think.

According the Colleen Dilenschneider, what the general public perceives to be an entertaining experience doesn’t align with the definition of non-profit curators/programmers either.

Leaders of cultural arts organizations tend to perceive an entertaining experience to be one that is simplified and dumbed down compared with the educational experience they offer. Participants have a much broader definition of what constitutes entertainment.

Surveying perceptions of memorial sites like USS Arizona Memorial, Arlington Cemetery, Vietnam Veterans Memorial and the September 11 Memorial & Museum, Dilenschneider’s company, IMPACTS found that memorial sites,

Considered as a collective, they are generally viewed as entertaining! People find these sites relevant and meaningful – and thus find them entertaining. This is the opposite of what some internal industry leaders believe “entertaining” to mean!

In general, cultural organizations are seen as entertaining entities. That’s great news because entertainment value motivates visitation while education value tends to justify a visit. Moreover – as we’ve discussed – entertainment value is the single biggest contributor to overall visitor satisfaction.

If you recall my posts on the most recent CultureTrack study, one of the most consistent motivators to participation across all disciplines was to have fun. Dilenschneider has presented information before from other sources that reinforces this result as well.

Later in her post, she presents another chart showing

“Memorial sites are perceived as both educational and entertaining, again challenging the notion that “entertainment” is necessarily vapid, empty, or meaningless.”

and makes the following important observations:

1) “Entertainment” means engaging

A synonym of “entertainment” is “engaging.” The opposite of “entertainment” is disengagement. Why would cultural organizations be disappointed to learn that they are not disengaging? I posit it’s because we’ve created and promulgated the baseless cognitive bias within our industry that entertainment and education are opposing forces, and that one comes at the expense of the other. In reality, they must work together to lead a successful cultural organization.


2) “Entertainment” is not the opposite of “education”

As shown above, cultural organizations are generally seen as both educational and entertaining! An idea that one value necessarily comes at the expense of another is generally unfounded. If it were true, these numbers could not both be high at the same time – and yet they are!


Entertainment value and education value are not the same thing, but their relationship much more closely resembles that of partners than of enemies. They may benefit by being considered individually at times, but they do not necessarily function independently.

A great deal to think about in relation to how we frame our thinking about what we are doing.

One thing I misinterpreted was her assertion that “…entertainment value motivates visitation while education value tends to justify a visit.” I read that as something viewed as entertainment impels people to participate while something viewed as educational is seen as an obligation — you have to go to the opera because it is good for you.

But when I watched the accompanying video (below), I realized the perceived educational value aligns directly with the motivations found in the Creating Connection initiative. Desire to see and learn something new and different and wanting a child to learn/see something different are part of the perceived educational value.


Donors Can Gain From Giving Circles

I have written a few times about the way people are organizing themselves in Giving Circles. It seems like an interesting approach to philanthropy because it is social and communal the way some online giving platforms are, but just as personal and local as individual giving. In some ways, it actually inspires people to be much more involved and deliberate in their giving.

Via Non Profit Quarterly is a link to a story that talks about those very factors.

“There is tremendous anxiety out there about social inequality and how stratified our society is. People want to do something about it,” says David Callahan, editor of the Inside Philanthropy news site.

“Giving circles create structure for people with shared values to learn about the causes they care about and support them while creating community.”

For members, the experience can be identity-changing.


The intentionality of the process — the vetting of proposals, visits to potential fundee’s sites, hours of thoughtful debate with passionate circle members in five separate committees — has changed Rothenberg’s self-perception.

“I used to think of myself as a donor,” says Rothenberg, who’d annually write checks to her college alma mater and give $50 gifts to this or that cause. “But I didn’t really know where the money went, or it felt like a drop in the bucket.

“Now I see myself as a philanthropist — I’m part of something bigger. I feel invested in the success of the nonprofits we support.”

No Such Thing As Free Parking

Gene Tagaki at Non Profit Law blog tweeted about IRS guidance for non profits that are now faced with having pay to taxes on the parking they offer employees.

If you didn’t know that you had to pay taxes on free or subsidized parking now….well you aren’t alone. It came as a surprise to a lot of people at the end of last year. Basically, whether you are an employer or an employee where free or subsidized parking is part of the employment package, there is tax to be paid.

The new rules aim to help taxpayers calculate the amount of parking expenses that aren’t tax deductible anymore since the passage of the TCJA. The guidance also is supposed to help tax-exempt organizations and their accountants figure out how the now nondeductible parking expenses can either create or increase unrelated business taxable income, or UBTI for short.

If any of this concerns you, you may want to read the article and chat with your accountant. The new guidance from the IRS is causing a lot of grumbles due to how late it is. (Mea culpa, I meant to post on it months ago, too)  A lot of non-profit groups were hoping for a repeal of these rules rather than tardy details on how to comply with them.

Kinda Silly Use of Geofencing

I have written before about the ethics of geofencing since there are all sorts of questions raised about where data collection stops and stalking starts.

One of the uses I had suggested might occur was geofencing other arts and cultural organizations in your region and using the information about willingness to participate to present people with options at your organization. Which again, could also been seen as letting someone else do the hard work of attracting participation and then using geofencing to gather information about those who show up.

Last week I came across a pretty puzzling use of geofencing that almost seemed to be using the technology in the to send people to a competitor. Burger King was offering people one cent Whoppers…but to qualify, you have to be standing near a McDonalds.

Burger King geofenced McDonald’s locations so that when you use their app near a Mc Donald’s you can place an order for a Whopper and will be directed to the nearest Burger King.

Big question is obviously, why someone would make an extra effort drive away from a McDonalds they just took time to get close to?

Then of course there is the fact that BK has 6600 locations. McDonalds has 14,000. Which means there is a fair chance you will actually be closer to another McDonalds than a Burger King restaurant and possibly pass it on the way to the Burger King.

This seems like the type of promotion geared toward people who already prefer Burger King over McDonalds rather than something that will attract new people to Burger King.

While art and cultural organizations might be accused of running promotions that reinforce their relationship with existing audiences even as they say they are seeking new ones, I can’t think of a practice that makes people go through such absurd lengths as stopping just short of the threshold of an alternative option to redeem it.

But if you can think of one, I would love to hear it.

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