Building a Non-Profit Dance Studio
There are several options for those who want to share their love of dance with others – they can open a private, for-profit dance studio, teach at several different venues or host dance classes at local public schools. Another option to consider is running a non-profit dance studio. Depending on your goals, funding opportunities and community needs, operating a nonprofit dance studio may be the best choice for you.
What Is a Non-Profit Dance Studio?
A nonprofit is generally classified as a “charitable” or 501(c)(3) organization, according to IndependentSector.org. To be recognized by the Internal Revenue Service, nonprofits must demonstrate that they are not just operating for the financial gain of its owners, but instead exists to serve and improve the community.
Non-profit dance studios, like other charitable organizations, are different from for-profit studios in several ways. To register with the IRS, non-profit dance studios must submit a mission statement that guides their operation. All of the revenue generated by a non-profit dance studio goes back into the organization and is used to further the studio’s mission. As such, there is no “owner” of the studio but rather a founder or director. Non-profit studios do not have shareholders and instead are required to have a board of directors made up of community members that advise the studio on its direction, fundraising and budget, among other areas.
It is a common misconception that non-profits don’t make a profit. While it sounds counterintuitive, non-profits are still allowed to charge tuition. However, any profits must be put back toward the operation of the studio and the execution of its mission, and the board of directors has a sizeable control over how profits are used.
Why Should You Consider Being a Non-Profit Dance Studio?
Non-profit dance studios, like other charitable organizations, are exempt from many state and federal taxes, such as income, property and sales taxes. Non-profits also qualify for government funding and can apply for grants from arts foundations and other community organizations. These financial incentives can help ease some of the burdens that for-profit studios face.
Being a non-profit also allows you to focus on responding to a certain need in the community and give back. You may want to build a non-profit studio to help make sure that all children can dance, regardless of the income levels of their families, or to help teach troubled kids confidence and life skills through dance. With the revenue you earn through the studio, you can offer scholarships and other forms of financial assistance to students who can’t afford full tuition, shoes or costumes.
As Larisa Hall, owner of Tap Fever Studios in California, told Dance Studio Life why she decided to make her studio a non-profit:
“I didn’t want to have to say no to anybody. Anybody who wants to dance should be able to, even people with disabilities or who can’t afford it.”
Ways to Fund a Non-profit Studio
There are several funding methods available to non-profit studio owners, and they all benefit from a strong relationship between your studio and the local community. Research the wealth of grants available online – DanceUSA.org maintains a great list of current opportunities, and seek out grants from community and state-level arts foundations and non-profits, too.
Beyond grants, fundraising is very important for non-profits. Anyone who makes a donation, whether they’re parents or community members, can deduct their contribution when they file for their taxes. By staying dedicated to your mission and highlighting the ways that your studio benefits the community, you can strengthen your fundraising efforts and clearly demonstrate the value of donating and working together between students, parents, board members and the local community.
Volunteering is also vital to a non-profit dance studio. Involve parents as much as possible, and look for strategic partnerships in your community that will be mutually beneficial. For example, have your studio teach classes at a fitness center in exchange for free access to its programs.
Finally, be sure to take advantage of modern fundraising techniques enabled by the Internet. Crowdfunding sites like Kickstarter, GoFundMe and IndieGoGo can help fund some of the costs of building and running your non-profit studio. IndieGoGo cited the American Tap Dance Foundation, which exceeded their goal to raise $5,000 for a lighting system in a new facility it had recently moved to.
While building a non-profit studio can be a difficult process, there are many success stories. Just one is Dancing in the Streets AZ, a non-profit studio started in 2008 by Joseph Rodgers and his wife Soleste Lupu. They created their studio from money they had received at their wedding with the mission to provide dance education to high risk children and youth. The accessible dance education the studio provides steers children away from unhealthy situations and activities and instead gives them a place to make positive connections and learn the value of discipline and hard work.
Dance Studio Life profiled the success story of Nela Niemann, artistic director of Blue Ridge Studio for the Performing Arts in Virginia. She runs the studio herself and teaches 140 students along with a small number of part-time teachers. She started her non-profit studio to make dance affordable to every child, and in one season distributed nearly $20,000 in scholarship to children in need.