Fund raising. Arts promoter Judith Jedlicka says the secret is corporate peer pressure

WHAT'S the fastest way to get a corporation to start supporting the arts? Of a million possible answers, Judith A. Jedlicka's sounds the most convincing.

``When the chairman of a major corporation that's supporting the arts speaks to a chairman of a major corporation that's not,'' she says, ``it happens overnight.''

If anyone should know, it's Miss Jedlicka. She's the president of the Business Committee for the Arts (BCA), an organization that has proved this claim many times since its founding in 1967.

With all the multilayered business support for the arts going on in the United States, this committee, surprisingly, is the only one of its kind, Jedlicka says. At the lofty corporate level at which it operates, the BCA ``is the first and only business committee for the arts in this country,'' she says. ``When other companies see us coming, they know what's on our minds.''

And that, of course, is to do a little corporate arm twisting -- to get nonmembers on board the pro-arts movement among US businesses. The platform for this proselytizing can be anything from formal speeches to friendly lunches, and the arm twisting is done by the committee's ``members,'' a high-powered cadre of more than 160 top-ranking executives whose influence is very potent in the national business community. The BCA may not have the whiff of elitism about it, but its work is no democratic mass mov ement, either.

``We are not envisioned to be an operation with 1,000 or 2,000 members,'' Jedlicka explained as we chatted in the BCA's simple but artistically decorated offices here. ``It's a very small, select group. Membership will probably never exceed 250.''

As for staff, the BCA's office operates with a total of nine people, under Jedlicka's direction. Among the nine, she is the only elected official and is beginning her third year as president. (The business committee's new chairman is Winton M. Blount, chairman and chief executive officer of Blount Inc., of Montgomery, Ala.)

Besides the members -- chairmen, presidents, and CEOs of US corporations with solid arts-support programs -- the committee also deals with what it calls the nonmember: companies of all sizes in the business community throughout the country. ``They can be the small, mom-and-pop operation in small cities and the major Fortune 500 company,'' says Jedlicka.

``It's an exciting time. It's no longer the arts group coming in and holding its hand out. The arts groups are terribly sophisticated -- they know that in the long term that's no longer good for them.

``Business is much more sophisticated, too, much more aware of the arts and the fact it can form a very solid and mutually beneficial relationship with the arts. We're seeing marketing, advertising, and volunteer programs; and matching-gifts programs, where employees determine what they want supported and by how much of their own dollar and how much of the corporate dollar. We're seeing a lot of new things happening in business.''

It hasn't always been that way. When the committee began promoting the arts-and-business link in 1967, it was certainly not the accepted or fashionable form of philanthropy it is today. Perhaps a few dozen businesses were involved in a big way. But the year before, David Rockefeller had suggested in a speech to the National Industrial Conference Board that business would do well to get involved with the arts, and he talked a core of business leaders into forming the Business Committee for the Arts.

``They talked to some of their business associates and colleagues,'' Jedlicka recounts, ``and before you know it, here we are 160 members later.''

Joining the cause have been thousands of businesses whose methods range from major corporate grants to small firms lending chairs or giving other forms of practical help to local arts events in towns throughout the US. The BCA's 1967 national survey of business support -- the nation's first -- recorded about $22 millon at that time. Today, it's over $500 million, and the committee expects the figure to hit $1 billion in 1987, the BCA's 20th anniversary.

Arts funding now represents 10 to 12 percent of the corporate philanthropic dollar, according to Jedlicka. The percentage has remained the same for some time, but the total dollar amount has been increasing as businesses' philanthropic contribution has risen.

As business support ballooned during this period, one big hurdle for arts groups was suspicion. Will business tell us what to do? What will that corporation want for its $25,000 sponsorship of this ex-hibition or that concert?

``Well, the price tags for business are much higher, but there are still very few restrictions,'' Jedlicka maintains. ``Everybody sits at a big table and says, `This is what it's all about. We would like you to consider this, and we'd like you to know that.' ''

Few restrictions, maybe, but there's a growing accommodation by the arts to business visibility in their midst. Ten years ago, she points out, ``a museum would probably scream and be very opposed to putting a corporation's name on its poster or on the entranceway to a major exhibition. Now this is one of the first things they say. `We'd be delighted to put your corporate or business name on a poster, on a program. If you want to entertain your key customers, your executives, we'd be delighted to have a reception.' They've realized the people coming into their museums keep those people coming back. We've gotten past the point of a threatening situation.''

Way past. In fact, a new kind of arts-business intertwining has been occurring during the past several years in the form of promotional advertising and marketing. The BCA has been placing magazine ads in free public-service space which tell how corporations have helped the arts and found that it paid off in practical as well as philanthropic terms. One ad, for instance, told of how American Express paid a certain amount to the arts whenever one of its cards was used or a new one taken out.

Besides direct giving and marketing campaigns, business is forming another kind of link with the arts, and it's happening within the ``corporate culture,'' a phrase Jedlicka calls ``a new buzz word'' in business-arts circles.

``It means the kind of environment and operating philosophy special to that business -- the treatment of people, products, and services, and the consumer,'' she explains.

The BCA not only urges business to use first-class architects in the design of corporate headquarters, it also encourages business to hang art that is ``suitable to their corporate culture. If they're in the Northwest part of the US, they might think about Northwest art. If they're in the South, they might think about art, crafts from that part of the country.''

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