Giving Thanks

Dear Unsung Heroes and Supporters,

A few days after Thanksgiving and before the rush of the December holidays I wish to give thanks to all of my clients, friends, partners, and supporters for making Smith Creative possible and making Jacksonville a truly great city. There are so many individuals with the character and determination to see through the community initiatives that are needed to move our community forward and I am thankful to work with many of them. Please accept my sincere thanks for all that you do and all that you will do. A very special thanks to my family for their ongoing support!


Creating an Arts Hub in Downtown Jacksonville

front of armoryToday is the last day of National Arts and Humanities Month and next Wednesday will be declared “Arts and Culture Day” in Jacksonville. The following is the final part of a TEDxFSCJ presentation on “Transforming Urban Communities Through the Arts.”

We must invest in what works. The Return on Investment is far too great and the opportunities too large to ignore. We must invest in the future. We must invest in an arts hub. A vision for a new Jacksonville.

What do you want your city to be? Where will Jacksonville be 5 years from now? 10 years from now? Don’t sit on the sidelines. Stand up. Step up. Reach out. You have voices which must be heard.

Become a volunteer for change. A volunteer for a new Jacksonville. An arts champion. Share your talents with students in our schools. Sign up for that pottery class or jazz workshop. Contact your elected officials and tell them to support arts education in our schools, communities, and workplaces. Vote! Help us rise above 16% voter turnout! Go local and join the ARTery team as a volunteer.

We are a city constantly being reborn and refashioned… retooled…a city on the verge of greatness.

That vacant building  at North Market and State Streets is more than just a space, more than just an Armory, it represents an essential idea. The idea that our diverse community can come together to create something of beauty, celebrate our shared past, learn from each other, and build an arts hub that shows the world the new Jacksonville, a “World Class City of Culture.”

Use the following sites for information on advocacy and contact info. for your elected officials.

City of Jacksonville City Council Members

Florida Cultural Alliance

Americans for the Arts

The Intersection of Creativity and Innovation

Arlington presentation with friendsJeff presenting at Arlington Council meeting

My talk on “Transforming Urban Communities Through the Arts” was very well received at the Arlington Council meeting yesterday. City Council President Clay Yarborough acknowledged the importance of public-private partnerships and several attendees encouraged him (and the entire council) to support The ARTery. Here is a small excerpt from that talk.

Some consider Jacksonville to be a cultural city. But do we really believe it? Do we provide enough support our arts institutions and artists? Over 2,500 individuals in our community consider themselves professional artists or performers. We have many fine institutions. Do you have a piece of art work from a local artist hanging in your home or office? Have you been to MOCA? MOSH? Players by the Sea? The Florida Theatre?

Jacksonville is a place for collaboration with efforts such as Cultural Fusion, Any Given Child, JAX2025, and more, but there is much work to be done.

When we come together to create something then anything is possible. Egos, turfs, the silo mentality, possessiveness, and a focus on “what’s in it for me” must be set aside in the interest of the greater good. The right place and collaboration are necessary ingredients to establish an arts hub, but we need more.

We need more support for artists in developing their careers. Workshops on the business of the arts and how to market yourself as an artist. We need arts cash mobs visiting the galleries and art studios to purchase art that can’t be found in the bargain bin at WalMart.

We need more college students serving as mentors for aspiring young artists in our schools. Not just in DA, Episcopal, and Bolles or other schools with thriving arts programs, but in EVERY school.

We need more professional artists serving as mentors for those college students. Teaching their craft, sharing what they have learned, and passing on their knowledge.

We need businesses that are forward thinking and include the arts in designing their spaces and workplace environments. Businesses that embed arts and culture and creativity in their DNA.

We need community members of all ages to step outside their comfort zone and try new things. Visit new places. Sign up for classes. Cross the ditch. Travel to other parts of town and other cities to experience and support arts and culture.

And we need more strategic partnerships between colleges, businesses, government entities, K-12 schools, pre-K programs, artists, and arts institutions to create something radically different that best meets the needs of our community.

The arts stand at the intersection of creativity and innovation! Arts education can improve student achievement, increase our job satisfaction, help revitalize our neighborhoods and act as a crucible for innovative ideas.

A small investment of less than$3 million dollars in 21 arts and cultural institutions last year resulted in $58 million dollars in support for the local economy! Over 51,000 visitors from outside Jacksonville came to our city for One Spark and helped contribute $1.8M to our local economy. The arts build 21st century skills for our children (creativity, collaboration, communication, and critical thinking). Hundreds of research studies show that the arts help students succeed, but the anecdotal evidence is just as compelling. Ask the students who have participated in arts classes how they have impacted their lives and you will hear some amazing answers.

Read my CALL TO ACTION tomorrow!

Thanking Volunteers

This is the last post of a three-part series on volunteerism. You have recruited volunteers and engaged them in a successful project or initiative. Now what?
Find creative ways to thank your volunteers and keep them engaged.
1) Send a handwritten card to each volunteer and thank them for their role. Be sure to include fundraising results and the impact of their volunteerism.
2) Throw a volunteer party.
3) Celebrate a Volunteer of the Month, Year, or Week.
4) Share your thanks with the volunteer’s employer.

Be creative and authentic in your thanks and praise for volunteers. Keep volunteers updated on the work of your organization and positive progress. Don’t just contact them when you need something.

Please send along your ideas for thanking volunteers!


Engaging Volunteers

As I shared in my last blog post volunteers play a critical role in building capacity for a nonprofit organization and their time has a high value. How do we recruit and engage volunteers? Read on for 4 tips and suggestions.

2014 Butterfly Festival-2

1) There are many effective and low cost ways to recruit volunteers such as social media and e-mail campaigns. Share your volunteer opportunities through Twitter, Facebook, e-mail campaigns, and your web site. Signup Genius is a free tool for managing volunteer events with sign-up tools. Nonprofits may join organizations like HandsOn Jacksonville that will provide terrific tools for recruiting and communicating with volunteers. Internships can be listed online in places such as the job bank on the Nonprofit Center’s web site or the Idealist site. Don’t forget to share volunteer opportunities with your board members.

2) Clarify the role of the volunteer. Are you seeking interns for marketing and fundraising support? Are you looking for volunteers to help with a community project or work in the office when needed? Make sure that you know what your needs are, create a volunteer/intern position description (if this is an ongoing need) and ensure that staff members are ready to provide support and answer questions for those volunteers. A staff member(s) should serve as a liaison for any volunteer or volunteer project. Here are some suggestions for an intern description. I like these volunteer job descriptions provided by the Jacksonville Public Library.

3) Make sure that volunteers provide all of the necessary information and fill out the necessary forms. Some organizations “lose track” of their volunteers because they don’t have enough contact information or the appropriate form was not filled out. What does the volunteer like to do? Where can his or her skills be best utilized? Here is a sample of a form that I have used in the past. SAMPLE volunteer form

4) Provide the dates, times, and location(s) that the volunteer is needed and provide contact information for a staff member (the liaison) should that volunteer have any questions. Where do I need to be? Is there a rain date for this event? Who do I call if I’m running late? Volunteers are busy people and they will stop sharing their time and talent with your organization if you don’t provide the necessary information.

In my next post we’ll discuss ways to thank volunteers and keep them engaged. Thanks for reading!

The Unpaid Volunteer

Much has been written about unpaid internships and the negative and positive benefits for both the organization and the “free” laborers. Nonprofits rely on a constant source of volunteers and many nonprofits exist solely through the work of volunteers, without any paid staff. I attended a recent event during which a speaker exhorted the attendees to make use of the “free labor” provided by the college students at that university.

ARTery party volunteers

According to the US Department of Labor’s web site, “Individuals who volunteer or donate their services, usually on a part-time basis, for public service, religious or humanitarian objectives, not as employees and without contemplation of pay, are not considered employees of the religious, charitable or similar non-profit organizations that receive their service.” The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), simply defines “employee” as “any individual employed by an employer.” Employees may not “volunteer” for their for profit, private sector employers under FLSA.

Volunteers and interns serve as fantastic resources for nonprofits, but must be treated with the same respect and appreciation as paid employees. The Independent Sector quantifies the value of volunteer time as $22.55 per hour. This results in a value in the tens of thousands (and even millions) of dollars for many nonprofits. However, a lack of communication with volunteers and unrealistic expectations can lead to a breakdown in the relationship between a volunteer and the organization. Nonprofits must provide adequate training for volunteers and clearly articulate the requirements for different volunteer opportunities. They must also understand the difference between a volunteer and an employee. I am thankful to live in a city that is consistently recognized as one of the top cities for volunteerism. In our next blog posts we will share some tips for engaging volunteers and volunteer appreciation.

Collaboration and Fear of Failure


I had the privilege of sharing a presentation on “Transforming Urban Communities Through the Arts” at the inaugural TEDxFSCJ held on the stage of the Wilson Center for the Arts. As I listened to the speakers and watched the prerecorded TED talks, I saw a few common themes emerge. Almost all of the initiatives described (improvisation, aquaponics, fast superfood, urban gardens, arts hubs, and more) required people power. As I shared in my talk, “When we come together to create something then anything is possible. Egos, turfs, the silo mentality, possessiveness, and a focus on ‘what’s in it for me’ must be set aside in the interest of the greater good.”

A second theme was a major focus at the end of the day as several speakers described failure and the fear of failure as holding us back from reaching our fullest potential. I have personally seen this fear take hold of some students when they simply give up. They are not giving up because they can’t do it, but because they don’t believe they can do it and are concerned about messing up. So many terrific community initiatives would never have begun if failure held back the individual or individuals who birthed the idea. I run into so many people who aren’t doing what they love because they fear that they can’t make a living doing what they love. I also meet many people who are doing what they love and wish they had started on that path sooner. What can you do to start down that path?

  • Set a bold vision. Something simple, broad, and inspiring. Put it on your wall, in a notebook, on your computer and glance at it every day. Share it with others and don’t let it sit on a shelf and gather dust. Use it in your 10-second or 20-second elevator speech.
  • Create a plan for the future. Set milestones and goal posts. You should have checkpoints and markers along the way so that you can stay on track and revise your strategy based on what is or isn’t working. Do you know where you’re going and how to get there? As many terrific leaders have said, “Begin with the end in mind.”
  • Collaborate with your friends, family, coworkers and neighbors. Invite them to the party! Send out some of those Doodle Surveys and find a time to chat about your ideas over a meal. You’ll be surprised at how many people want to join you on the journey and become just as excited about your ideas as you are.
  • Refocus your energies on the positive. It is important to understand the pitfalls and challenges, but as the song goes, “You’ve got to accentuate the positive.” All too often we give too much weight to the negative voices in our head and our community and we stop believing in ourselves. Your idea could have merit and change the world (or at least your neighborhood).
  • Make sure you are accountable to others. Ask a few of your mentors and trusted advisers to provide feedback throughout the process. Make sure that you are sharing updates and goals with your spouse or closest friend. Allow them to provide you with real, honest and valuable advice.