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Managing Transitions and Preserving Assets


Written and developed by Mollie Quinlan-Hayes and published by NCAPER, the National Coalition for Arts’ Preparedness and Emergency Response

Funded By

This project was produced by NCAPER with generous support from the National Endowment for the Arts to South Arts, the administrative home of NCAPER, and The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. 

This Toolkit is designed to help you be a good steward of your organization while leading it through inevitable transitions. You manage a corporation that was created for the public’s benefit, and you have a responsibility to the public to protect its assets. This section provides you with guidance to explore a variety of options – everything from radical restructuring, to dormancy, the merging of organizations, and dissolving – and resources to help you with whatever path is best for your situation.

When you’re considering significant structural shifts, you’ll grapple with the human, and the administrative/legal/financial issues that surface. It’s hard to make pragmatic decisions in the face of causing hurt and distress. But that’s the obligation of an arts leader, whether paid or volunteer. This resource is meant to encourage and help you with these difficult decisions.

Making decisions about your organization’s future can be legally and financially complicated. You will need professional assistance – an attorney, accountant, or insurance professional. However, this Toolkit will help you prepare for those conversations, offering you the basic options and language, so your conversations with these experts can be efficient and focused. 

Organizations are not just organizations: they are representative of the human beings and the missions that make up those organizations. So, this is very much a human exploration of a lifecycle. It can be very difficult, and it can also be very joyous,” says Christopher Hochstetler, executive director of the Stuhr Museum in Grand Island, Nebraska.

We hope you will find opportunities to celebrate and to look forward as you face transition.

Steps for making legal and structural choices:

  1. Have the conversation

  2. Consider your options and their implications

  3. Make the decision

  4. What each option entails


The information included in this Toolkit was culled from sources available to the public, with input and review by field and subject matter experts. Every effort was made to present current and correct information as of July, 2021. This Toolkit does not represent legal guidance, and is provided for informational purposes. The author and publisher cannot be responsible for any losses or failures users experience as a result of using this information.

This Toolkit Includes Material From:

The American Association for State and Local History, Amy Schindler/University of Nebraska at Omaha (UNO) Libraries, Arts Advisory Board, Association of Academic Museums and Galleries, Bancroft Library/University of California at Berkeley, Beth Kattelman/Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee Theatre Research Institute at Ohio State University,, Christopher Hochstetler/Stuhr Museum, Deborah Gilpin/Madison Children’s Museum, Deloitte, Edgepoint, the Glendale Star, Greg Hunter/Council of Nonprofits, Harvard Business Review, the Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety, Jean-Phillipe Malaty and Tom Mossbrucker/Aspen/Santa[MQH1]  Fe Ballet, Jeanne Bell and Steve Zimmerman/Nonprofit Sustainability, Judy Polacheck/Polacheck HR Law LLC, Krystal Siebrandt, HBE LLP, LaRue Allen/Martha Graham Dance Company, Leigh Grinstead/LYRASIS, Michael Ibrahim and the MassCultural Council, Mindtools, Oral History Association, Performing Arts Readiness, Stephanie Mattoon/Baird Holm Attorneys at Law, Stephanie Plummer and the Nebraska Arts Council, Susana Smith Batista, Voice of Witness, the Wallace Foundation and AEA Consulting. Thanks to Beth Kattelman, Claire West, Deborah Gilpin, Leigh Grinstead, Lynn Dates and Stephanie Plummer. Special thanks to Jan Newcomb/NCAPER, and Tom Clareson, Performing Arts Readiness project. Design by Lynn Dates.

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