Site Analysis Blog
By Nathan Prosser
This fall I am interning at the Jazz and Heritage Festival and Foundation. The Foundation was founded in 1970 to manage the now world famous New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival. As anyone who has spent any time in New Orleans knows, Jazz Fest is a big deal. Not only does it display and celebrate the best of New Orleans’ local talent, it also brings in tons of other world-renowned A-list performers all together in the same event. And that’s not all. The festival also “attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors to New Orleans and pumps $300 million a year into the local economy.”
Owning the Jazz and Heritage Festival is only one of many things that the Foundation does. It also hosts other free festivals throughout the year. Each has its own theme celebrating some unique aspect of New Orleans’ culture. For example, the Foundation puts on the Congo Square New World Rhythms Festival and the Cajun Zydeco Festival in the spring and summer, as well as the Crescent City Blues and BBQ Festival and the Treme Gumbo Festival in the fall. In fact, the Blues and BBQ Fest is coming up this weekend, and I encourage everyone to go. It’s a free weekend-long festival in Lafayette Park, right in the middle of New Orleans. As the name suggests, there will be some great blues musicians performing, headlined by Johnny Lang, and there will also be plenty of food vendors serving delicious BBQ and other types of food. This is very exciting for me because I will be working at the festival. I will be manning the Foundation tent where I will be helping people sign up for memberships and selling t-shirts and other merchandise.
There is still another aspect to what the Foundation does, and that is education. It runs and operates the Don “Moose” Jamison Heritage School of Music, which provides free music classes to children of the New Orleans community. It is also currently in the process of opening the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Center, which will be “dedicated to preserving and promoting the vibrant cultures of our surrounding communities.”
As seen above, the Jazz and Heritage Festival and Foundation does quite a lot in the New Orleans community. All of its activities are in keeping with its mission, which states:
“To promote, preserve, perpetuate and encourage the music, arts, culture and heritage of communities in Louisiana through festivals, programs and other cultural, educational, civic and economic activities.”
As we can see in its mission, the Foundation doesn’t focus on any particular segment of the population, but instead it serves the entire community of New Orleans and, more broadly, all of Louisiana and beyond. Putting on festivals and promoting New Orleans musical heritage are big parts of what the Foundation does, but as my site supervisor, Shanna Hudson-Stowe, put it: “we deal with not only the practitioners of culture but also with the entire community.”
The Foundation is set up as a 501c(3) nonprofit organization. As such, it has a board of directors that set the course of the Foundation. It also has a permanent staff that manages the day-to-day activities, such as finances and marketing. As far as funding goes, the Foundation has several ways to raise money. This is of special interest to me because I intern in the development office, which is responsible for raising money. First and probably most obviously, the Foundation gets funds from Jazz Fest proceeds. Another very important source of funds is donations and memberships. Finally, the Foundation receives funds for specific purposes from grants.
Working in the development office, I mostly deal with membership donations. The Foundation is a large organization and as such, it has many members that donate money every year. One of my primary tasks is to record these donations into the donation database. I then am responsible for ensuring that the members get a thank you letter and other benefits that come with their membership. Working in the office for even just several weeks, I have been able to gain a better understanding of how a nonprofit organization runs, particularly in regards to how it raises money. Aside from adding some concrete experience to my theoretical knowledge of nonprofits, I have also gained some practical skills from my internship thus far. I have learned how to use a fairly complicated database system, which I believe will be useful in the future if I ever have to use and operate a database again.
While I may not be very directly involved in providing festivals and other services to the community, my department and internship help ensure that the money is there so that these events can actually happen. This is very important in helping the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival and Foundation serve the New Orleans community. By putting on all the festivals and events that it does, the Foundation preserves and celebrates the rich musical traditions that are such an important part of New Orleans’ culture.