How Callanwolde Fine Arts Center Revitalized Their Community

December 20, 2023

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This article was written in partnership with Andrew Keenan, Executive Director of Callanwolde Fine Arts Center, and Brian Abernathy, General Manager of Convergent Nonprofit Solutions

Nonprofit organizations play a vital role in their local communities, particularly during challenging times. It’s important for nonprofits to make a proactive effort to engage with their existing community, and also to build new communities that further the impact and mission of the organization. 

Doing so is a proven way to build your organization’s constituency. At Smith + Howard, our nonprofit accounting professionals have had the pleasure of serving countless nonprofit organizations, and time and time again, we’ve observed a similar pattern. Making a concerted investment in revitalizing the community around your nonprofit attracts new patrons and donors. 

Callanwolde Fine Arts Center: A Pillar of the Atlanta Arts and Culture Scene

One organization that knows this better than most is the Callanwolde Fine Arts Center, a gem of the arts and culture community in Atlanta, Georgia. Established in 1972, today Callanwolde is a nonprofit community and arts center that provides a wide range of classes, performances, and events to the local community. 

During the pandemic, many organizations like Callanwolde were forced to significantly scale back their programs at a time when their community needed the connection they provided most. It was an extremely challenging time for everyone: the organization’s staff, community, patrons, and Callanwolde’s leadership team were keen to find innovative new ways they could support their constituents. 

The organization has a proud history of hosting musical events. Andrew Keenan, Executive Director of Callanwolde Fine Arts Center explains:

“Callanwolde has been hosting outdoor concerts for 24 years. We started with Jazz on the Lawn, which was originally held on our front lawn and then moved to our outdoor amphitheater in 2015. During the pandemic, we knew that people needed and wanted connection, and that music was the perfect magnet.”

As the initial months of the pandemic stretched on, the team at Callanwolde came up with a new idea: a spring concert series, hosted in their outdoor amphitheater. 

The Callanwolde Spring Concert Series

In 2021, Callanwolde introduced a Spring Concert Series, putting together a comprehensive slate of performances featuring renowned musicians from across the country. Given the restrictions in place at the time, it was a tremendous amount of work for the Callanwolde team. 

“Little did we know that Callanwolde would be one of the only major live and onsite music venues in Georgia during 2020 and 2021. For safety reasons our ticket availability was cut in half, so we doubled the number of concerts. We even needed to expand the stage so that performers could be socially distanced!”

–– Andrew Keenan, Executive Director, Callanwolde Fine Arts Center

The program was a resounding success, with every single concert selling out. Andrew recalls: 

“Guests drove from as far as North Carolina and Florida to attend our concerts. I remember one older couple in tears thanking us for holding concerts during the pandemic. They said the Callanwolde concerts were their only opportunity to be around other people and listen to live music.”

A Revitalized Community + A Growing Donor Base

Pulling together this event program under challenging circumstances was an investment that helped Callanwolde significantly revitalize and grow its community. Many people who had never heard of Callanwolde and the work they did began to attend concerts, and in the time since, they’ve remained active members of the Callanwolde community. 

Brian Abernathy, General Manager at Convergent Nonprofit Solutions, who supports Callanwolde, remarks:

“Callanwolde’s concert series expanded its impact in a very tangible way – meeting a direct need for engagement in the community in a season where it was needed most. Beyond simply providing another outlet for performance and access to the arts, Callanwolde leveraged the concert series to establish itself as a true community asset in Atlanta.”

The concert series has also been a cornerstone of Callanwolde’s fundraising efforts, helping them attract donations, both from private individuals and corporate sponsors. Andrew comments: 

“Our concert attendees and sponsors have become one of our best sources for new donors. Once people discover how Callanwolde serves the community, especially the underserved, they often become loyal members and contributors.”

Toward the Future: Building a New Legacy

The Callanwolde Fine Arts Center is dedicated to advancing forward-thinking initiatives. Their investments in innovative events that reinvigorate their local community have been a centerpiece of their strategy. It’s a move, that according to Brian, many nonprofit organizations can learn from:

“Building this constituency served to bolster Callanwolde’s value proposition to the neighborhood and spotlight the contribution it makes to developing a vibrant community. 

The positive impact in these areas was shown in a recent feasibility study Convergent Nonprofit Solutions conducted to test a proposed capital expansion project at Callanwolde. The Spring Concert Series has positioned Callanwolde as an investable community asset and will pay dividends in future fundraising efforts – both operating and capital related.”

Callanwolde’s bold investment in their community established the organization as a community asset, educating community members on the work Callanwolde does to support underserved individuals and families. 

The positive impact of these initiatives catalyzes further development and growth, creating a cycle of sustainability and prosperity. The expansion of nonprofits in a community can bring about tremendous benefits for the people living there. By offering meaningful programs and events, nonprofits create a sense of belonging and provide a space for people to come together, share ideas, and build relationships.

Over time, this leads to the revitalization of neighborhoods, the creation of new jobs, and the development of a sustainable community. By investing in the expansion of nonprofits, communities can foster a culture of innovation, creativity, and social responsibility, creating a brighter future for their communities.

Callanwolde Fine Arts Center is a nonprofit community arts center that offers classes and workshops for all ages in visual, literacy, and performing arts. The organization has a mission to provide the Atlanta community with premier accessible arts education, especially to the underserved.

Convergent Nonprofit Solutions is a national fundraising consulting firm that specializes in managing feasibility studies and capital campaigns for chambers, economic development organizations, community colleges, and other nonprofits.

Smith + Howard is a top tax, accounting and advisory firm serving businesses across the U.S. in the construction, distribution, hospitality, manufacturing, nonprofit, real estate and technology sectors. The firm has a specialized team of nonprofit advisors who work closely with organizations across the US. Along with traditional services, the firm offers sales and use tax, international tax consulting, enterprise risk services, SOC reporting, technology consulting and process automation, among other offerings through its family of companies. 

To learn more about the support Smith + Howard provides to nonprofit entities, contact an advisor today

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