The Power of Nonprofits

Graphic Designed by: Kaho Otake

BRB Bottomline: Why do Nonprofits exist and what role do they play in society? Although often criticized and under-valued, Nonprofits provide services and products that act as catalysts for the overall well-being and economic growth of society. On a local level, the Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive rely on their Nonprofit status to showcase the art and culture that defines our community.

What Is a Nonprofit?

Nonprofits are tax-exempt businesses regulated by the Internal Revenue Service. To be classified as a Nonprofit, a business must provide a service or good that promotes the public good.

Under The Internal Revenue Code, Nonprofits are permitted to fully operate their business (hire employees, sell products and services, etc.) as long as no individual or shareholder directly profits from operations. What this definition fails to recognize is the business itself can reap the profits. As with most organizations, successful Nonprofits aim to generate enough capital so that, after operating costs, a decent amount of cash remains. With these earnings, organizations can either invest in and fund future projects or save them to ensure future sustainability (endowments).

The Importance of Nonprofits

As government resources become increasingly finite, the services and products that Nonprofits provide become more crucial. Often the local hospitals you visit, the libraries you check out books from, and scientific organizations that foster innovation, operate as Nonprofits. Generally, people recognize the importance Nonprofits play in improving the overall quality of life, but they do not realize the economic impact these organizations have on a community. The jobs and services Nonprofits supply correlate positively with local GDP growth: more jobs lead to higher consumer demand, which leads to GDP growth. Additionally, Nonprofits offer programs that encourage financial participation. Take The Doe Fund, for example, a Nonprofit whose mission is to help homeless and formerly incarcerated individuals achieve sustainability through housing and career assistance services. This organization works to transform people who traditionally can’t participate in the economy into fully contributing members of society.

An Inside Look into BAMPFA

In order to understand the role Nonprofits play in Berkeley, I spoke with Ann Wiens, director of Marketing and Communications of The Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive (BAMPFA). 

The Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive operate as a subsidiary under the broader University of California Nonprofit. The museum raises the majority of its funds through admission/merchandise sales and, most prominently, grants and donations. For The Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive, Wiens summarized how everything really comes down to its Nonprofit status. Their status not only exempts BAMPFA from federal and state income taxes but also encourages people to donate for tax write-offs. In this way, BAMPFA’s Nonprofit status doubly benefits them: clearing them from any income taxes and promoting public contributions. So, how does BAMPFA benefit the community? It all boils down to three things: Innovation and Preservation, Student-Focus, and Artistic Esteem.

Innovation and Preservation

Essential to BAMPA’s mission is education on the importance of innovation and preservation. Take, for example, the Barbara Stauffacher Solomon Art Wall. In the 1970’s, Solomon pioneered an entirely new entity of art called Supergraphics. Her contributions to the field stimulated innovation in both the art and design world. Wiens describes how she believes that the Solomon art wall inspires visitors: “Barbara Solomon was from the area and I think the fact that she created a new form of art speaks volumes to those who view the exhibit.”

BAMPFA offers anyone with general admission access to a drop-in art lab. This lab is open four days a week and is staffed by a professional that assists visitors in every capacity. Wiens believes the art lab is an important tool for people: “There really is something very impactful about creating something with your own two hands, even research shows that. The art lab is a way for people to do that.” This direct outlet for creativity grants people the ability to explore their imagination, and as Ann Wiens says, “emphasizes the idea that cultural production can take place on merits other than profitability.”

Wiens also accentuated the importance of preservation in understanding the culture of our society. She chronicles how “often people don’t realize that art is one of the most accurate historical records.” The preservation of this artwork to not only learn about the past, but also appreciate the human emotion depicted in the art, simultaneously connects us with our past and paves the way for our future.

Student Focus

All UC Berkeley students receive free admission to BAMPFA. At any point in the year, a Berkeley student has access to every single exhibit and amenity the museum offers. BAMPFA not only provides students with free admission but also closely works with Berkeley classes to show students that what they are learning in the classroom applies multi-dimensionally in the real world. Students take classes at BAMPFA ranging from traditional studio art to migration. Wiens explains the importance of having a variety of classes within the museum itself: “Students have the opportunity to see the actual material and be in an environment that encourages learning.” Young, driven Berkeley students are the future of society, and BAMPFA aims to ensure that all students have access to the innovation and the sheer beauty the museum has to offer.

Artistic Esteem

Through meticulous preservation practices, purposeful layouts, varied exhibits, and recognition of traditional film techniques, BAMPFA attempts to preserve the integrity of its artists’ intentions. Wiens explains that “often films were shot with the intention of being shown on a specific medium, but today, end up being watched digitally. We show films the way they were intended to be shown, which captures the integrity of the film. There is also something worth noting about watching the film with people around; it’s a social experience.”

Additionally, Wiens chronicled how the preservation of art is a complicated, expensive process: “No individual could properly handle art at this scale the way a professional team does, and that’s why museums are critical for preservation.” Without organizations like BAMPFA, the culture, and history of art could not be properly conserved.

Take Home Points

The Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive exemplify how the services and products that Nonprofits deliver are essential to the comprehensive health of a community. Through its three core principles, BAMPFA provides the Berkeley community with the tools to explore, innovate, and connect with its culture and art that would not be possible without it.

Special thanks to Ann Wiens for taking the time to talk with us!

Go check out The Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive at 2155 Center St, Berkeley, CA 94720.


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