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Community Listening Project: Method

Over the past few years, the Cultural Alliance and our arts partners have seen historic patterns of art support shifting in our community. We realized that we needed to change or risk irrelevancy.

In 2017, the Cultural Alliance of York County started an in-depth design thinking process with our partner Design Quake to identify how we can reposition the organization for relevance and sustainability that will ensure arts and culture in York will thrive for years to come.

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Background Research

Before launching our community listening project, we carried out months of qualitative and quantitative research that examined what our work has meant to York County since we were founded 20 years ago, and benchmarked our results with other united arts funds across the country to compare/contrast how funding for the arts has shifted and changed throughout communities large and small.

Empathy Interviews

We hosted in-depth empathy interviews with York County arts organizations, community leaders, our donors, and residents to find out what is most important, learn their successes/challenges, and gain a deeper understanding of their needs.

Ideation Sessions

We held interactive idea generating sessions with artists, cultural organizations, and volunteers to help us identify what the components of a new model of the Cultural Alliance might look like, and what resources are vital to the sustainability of the arts in our community.

Prototype Development And Testing

Based on our research findings and needs analysis, and the learnings from our ideation sessions, we developed multiple models of how we might move forward as an organization and put them back in front of those same stakeholders to get their feedback.

These stakeholders included partner organizations, corporate donors, volunteers, and community leaders. Over the next 18 months, we will continue to seek input from our cultural partners, donors, and the community to refine and strengthen the Cultural Alliance’s model of operation.

Thank you to the Wells Fargo Community Leadership Investment Grant Program and to the York County Community Foundation for supporting this work.

Large Organizations

Large organizations differ from smaller organizations in what they value and in what they need. Large arts organizations value predictability & stability of Cultural Alliance funding. Small arts organizations value support/guidance and “seal of approval” that the Cultural Alliance offers.


Donors highly respect the Cultural Alliance and its role in efficiently raising funds for the arts community. Donors trust in the Cultural Alliance to ensure that our cultural partners and grant recipients use their unrestricted operating support to positively impact our community through a transparent, equitable grant-making process


The Cultural Alliance should be broadening its operational support and including more organizations as partners that receive unrestricted operating dollars to support the overall sector. “A rising tide lifts all boats.”

Our Funding

The current way the Cultural Alliance funds are allocated to our arts partners is outdated. Anchoring operational allocations to original corporate support funds raised in 1999 isn’t keeping pace with the needs of our partners, and our funded arts partners can’t significantly impact allocations in our current process.


Current Cultural Alliance professional development and promotion programs for the arts community are not generating desired impact. Arts organizations and artists have very different needs, and one-size-fits all training programs, conferences, and promotional events are not addressing their needs in a meaningful way.

Play A Role

The Cultural Alliance should play a role in helping new and challenged arts organizations thrive. It strengthens the sector when organizations within it are strong. Struggling organizations should get resources to help turn them around, and budding organizations should have access to resources to help them grow and become sustainable.


Supporting individual working artists “plant the seeds” to strengthen the arts sector in our community and could have significant economic development impact.