People who know us have seen how much Vickie and I support non-profits. We volunteer our time. We produce concerts & festivals that raise money for them. And we donate money when we can. Gloucester is blessed to have several excellent non-profits with dedicated staff, supporters and volunteers who serve our community well. You know who they are.
Lately, it feels like some organizations with 501(c)(3) tax exempt status are gaining an unfair advantage in the marketplace. And last week, several events conspired to drive this point home to us.
It began last Wednesday when an MCC delegation came to Beverly for a proposed Cultural District site visit. The proposed Beverly Arts District (BAD for short) includes The Larcom Theatre, where we present concerts, so we arranged for the MCC delegation to tour the theatre and I participated in a round table dialogue afterwards. The Larcom Theatre is clearly the largest arts organization in the district in terms of the number of people we connect with annually (over 30K people come to shows at the Larcom from over 320 towns in 30+ states).
But The Larcom is not eligible for an MCC Cultural Facilities Fund Grant because it’s not a 501(c)(3). Neither is gimmeLIVE. Currently, the Larcom has no air conditioning, so we don’t have concerts in the summer; and no sound system, so we rent one (an excellent one, BTW) for the season. If we were a 501(c)(3) we could apply for a grant and use the money for those and other improvements. But we can’t. Nor can we hang posters in lots of locations (including Market Basket) that only allow posters for non-profits.
However, the group that hopes to purchase the Cabot Theatre (just up the street from the Larcom) is rumored to be a non-profit. They won’t pay taxes. They could get a Cultural Facilities Grant. They could hang posters where we can’t. So… our tax dollars are funding our competition, whose 501(c)(3) status gives them lots of other advantages over us too.
Does this seem fair to you?
When I mention this disparity to various people, their answer is usually, “Well, why don’t you become a non-profit? It’s really not that hard.” In fact, that’s what Biotech investor Greg Verdine is doing for his new Gloucester venture according to this Boston Business Journal article that I read on Thursday.
Is this really what we want? Smart business people starting non-profits to gain an advantage in the marketplace?
We’re not talking about poor starving aid workers here. People who run non-profits in the Northeast make over $148K on average and as much as $3.7 million a year in salary according to this report.
Recently we applied for a Mission Main Streets Grant from Chase Bank. Getting this grant would allow us to hire people, buy sound equipment, take bigger risks on more expensive artists and maybe even help get air conditioning in the Larcom Theatre (it’s not enough for that, but it could help). Refreshingly, these grants are only available to for-profit small businesses. That’s us — a small, family business trying to make a living for ourselves, our crew and our artists by bringing the best live music to your backyard at reasonable prices. Non-profits have a huge advantage. Please help level the playing field by voting for us. It’s easy and free. Just go here.