Partnering Strategies for Arts and Cultural Organizations

To mark Art Appreciation Month, we’re highlighting a report that reviewed congressionally-chartered organizations, and identified some strategies that arts and cultural organizations have used to leverage non-federal resources.  In June 2013, we reported on how a few of these organizations—including the Smithsonian and the National Gallery of Art—used partnering to:

  • generate revenue,
  • further research goals,
  • enhance programs,
  • strengthen internal operations, and
  • raise private funds.


Courtesy National Gallery of Art, Washington

Other museums, memorials, and cultural institutions could use principles we identified to guide management decisions about partnering. Here are some examples of creative ways organizations applied three of these principles:

Select complementary partners and appropriate projects

Partners should bring complementary resources and skills to projects that make sense for the organization and the partner. For example:

  • QVC helped the Smithsonian sell jewelry with designs based on the institution’s gem collection. In another instance, Mattel provided product development expertise to design, produce, and sell a paleontologist Barbie doll. The resulting revenues were used to fund programs.
  • The National Gallery of Art partnered with District of Columbia public schools to expand its audience. The program brought fourth and fifth grade students (who were otherwise unlikely to visit) to the museum. As part of this program, students visit the museum up to 14 times over two school years to view, discuss, and create art.

Assess and manage risks

Incorporating risk assessment and risk management practices can help ensure that the organization recognizes and is prepared to manage explicit and implicit risks when partnering with others. For example:

  • To minimize the likelihood that partners could potentially damage its reputation, the Smithsonian Institution only allows the use of its space for specific purposes. This allows the Smithsonian to retain appropriate control over its facilities. Events such as weddings or birthdays; partisan, political, or religious gatherings; fundraising; or marketing events are prohibited.

Make partnering decisions in line with mission

Organizations should have clear, well-articulated missions; strategic goals to achieve them; and a defined process for assessing whether partners’ missions and goals are complementary. For example:

  • To preserve the park’s beauty and natural resources, the Presidio Trust strategically chose financial self-sufficiency as its primary goal. To achieve self-sufficiency, the Presidio Trust worked with real estate and construction firms to plan, develop, and manage the rehabilitation and rental of structures on park property. These partnering efforts helped the Presidio Trust successfully meet its goal of financial self-sufficiency by fiscal year 2012 while also making significant progress in historical preservation.

Image | Posted on by | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , ,

GAO’s Financial Markets and Community Investment Team

housing thumbnailGAO’s workforce is generally organized into 14 mission teams. Today we’ll be putting the spotlight on the Financial Markets and Community Investment (FMCI) team. FMCI supports Congress by helping ensure the effectiveness of regulatory oversight in financial and housing markets, and assessing the effectiveness of federal initiatives aimed at small businesses, state and local governments, and communities.


FMCI team reports cover 5 issue areas:

  • Financial Markets: This fiscal year, one report examined government support for banks and another report discussed the status of international financial reform efforts and the U.S. role.
  • Housing: We issued a report examining the effectiveness of the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s efforts to promote self-sufficiency among residents.
  • Community Investment: We have reviewed how the Economic Development Administration documented its grant decisions under its two largest programs.
  • Small Businesses: Our work in this area includes a report that examined the Treasury Department’s management of the State Small Business Credit Initiative; and a report that examined the Small Business Administration’s Patriot Express pilot loan program, which provided credit to veteran-owned small businesses.
  • Consumer Protection: We have issued a report on the effectiveness of federal financial literacy activities; and a report on the lack of comprehensive federal protections for consumer data collected and sold by information resellers.

For more information on our work, see our Key Issue pages by clicking on the “Business Regulation and Consumer Protection,” “Economic Development,” “Financial Markets and Institutions,” or “Housing” boxes on this page.


In fiscal year 2013, FMCI’s work identified $9.6 billion in financial benefits for the federal government as well as other efficiencies. Directors from FMCI testified at 12 congressional hearings and contributed to 5 other hearings.

A Closer Look at a FMCI report: College Debit Cards

A growing number of colleges and universities offer banking products to students in the form of debit and prepaid cards issued through agreements with financial services providers. These college cards provide students with debit or checking account services, and can be used to deliver federal student aid.


Excerpted from GAO-14-91

College cards can benefit students and schools, but concerns exist about fees, student choice, and transparency. Students may not be getting information that enables them to adequately assess whether a college card best meets their individual needs and is the most cost-effective choice for receiving student aid. We asked Congress to consider requiring that financial firms providing card services to colleges file their agreements with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) for public review. We also recommended that the Department of Education, in consultation with CFPB, develop requirements for schools and card providers to present students with objective and neutral information on their options for receiving federal student aid payments.

  • Questions on the content of this post? Contact Orice Williams Brown at
  • Comments on GAO’s WatchBlog? Contact
Image | Posted on by | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

What Exactly are “Improper Payments”?

thumbnail_auditingImproper payments are always an area of concern for the federal government. These include overpayments, underpayments, payments made to ineligible recipients, or even payments that weren’t properly documented. While fraudulent payments are considered improper, not all improper payments are the result of fraud. For example, improper payments can be a result of mismanagement, errors, or fraud and abuse. For fiscal year 2013, federal agencies reported nearly $106 billion in estimated improper payments. While we don’t determine amounts of improper payments by cause, we do highlight areas of concern and make recommendations for reducing many types of improper payments, both at specific agencies and government-wide. Continue reading

Image | Posted on by | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

GAO’s Internship Experience

gao1As summer’s barbecues and beach days wind down, so do the experiences of a select group of graduate and undergraduate students in GAO’s Student Intern Program. We talked to some of them about their experiences. Continue reading

Image | Posted on by | Tagged , , , , , , ,

Mixed News for U.S. Airline Consumer Choice

Have you flown recently? You might feel like your options are more limited because of trends in air service and recent airline mergers. But do you really have fewer airlines to choose from? In the last several months, GAO has reported on changes in the airline industry and their implications for consumers and communities. Continue reading

Image | Posted on by | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

AskGAOLive: Retirement Security

webchat_iconWith a multitude of savings options available, from IRAs to managed 401(k) accounts, ensuring you will have the money you need for your retirement can be a complex task. Join us for a live web chat on retirement security trends and issues Monday, August 4, 2014, at 2:00 pm ET.

You can send us your questions in advance via email or on Twitter using #AskGAOLive, and then tune in to the web chat for answers. Continue reading

Image | Posted on by | Tagged , , , , , , , ,

GAO Reports That Help Protect Vulnerable Elders

thumbnail retirement securityNews stories about older adults whose trusted family members or other caretakers deny them food and water, leave them to live under deplorable conditions, or physically and psychologically abuse them are all too common.  Neglect and abuse can often go hand in hand with financial exploitation, which can rob older adults of the life savings and property they count on to support them in old age. Continue reading

Image | Posted on by | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Podcast on Expectations of Government Support for Large Bank Holding Companies

GAO Podcast IconThe perception among investors and credit agencies that a bank is “too big to fail” may affect how that bank’s holding company competes in financial markets.

Hear our podcast with Lawrance Evans, Jr., a director in GAO’s Financial Markets and Community Investment team, who led a recent look at how expectations of government support affect large bank holding companies.

Image | Posted on by | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The Evolution of GAO Graphics


As GAO has produced reports over the years, we’ve used graphics to help showcase our findings. With innovations in how we publish our reports, our graphic style has changed dramatically over the past 30 years.
Continue reading

Image | Posted on by | Tagged , , , , , , ,

Sharing Health Records for Servicemembers and Veterans

Thumbnail Health CareThe Departments of Defense (DOD) and Veterans Affairs (VA) operate two of the nation’s largest health care systems, providing care to more than 9.6 million active-duty servicemembers and 6.3 million veterans. For many years, DOD and VA have known that better sharing of health care data could help them: Continue reading

Image | Posted on by | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,