Cultural Districts designated by the State of Massachusetts are required to submit a proposal of the district’s management structure in order to receive designation. While they are not limited to one specific structure, some models are more advantageous depending on the district. This case study looks at the Natick Center Cultural District and its Municipal Services Agreement Model; other models include “Consortium Membership Model”, and “Municipal Management Model.”
Natick Center Associates is an independent 501c3 located in downtown Natick. Founded over 40 years ago with a mission of supporting downtown economic revitalization, the organization’s Strategic Plan, 2015-2020, recommended its merger with the Natick Center Cultural District and helped guide that process. NCA’s responsibility for managing the Natick Center Cultural District was formalized through a Memorandum of Understanding with the Town of Natick in 2015, which allocated $80,000 from the Town’s operating budget toward management of the District.
Natick Center Associates (NCA), Town of Natick
In addition to $80,000 provided by the Town of Natick, NCA also offers a tiered membership model that nets approximately $20,000 in annual revenue. An annual fundraiser, the Farmer’s Market, and other fundraising activities generate another $28,000 collectively. Additional funds are raised through event sponsorships. Growth in fundraising, particularly through memberships, helped offset the loss of Adams Grant funding when the Massachusetts Cultural Council eliminated that program.
The Natick Center Cultural District is staffed by NCA. Staff includes a full-time executive director, a less-than-half-time administrative assistant, and a bookkeeper who works about 5 hours/week. Executive Director responsibilities include planning, coordinating, marketing, promoting and executing district-sponsored events throughout the year. In addition, the Executive Director is responsible for the administrative tasks associated with running a nonprofit, such as managing an annual membership drive, attending board meetings, running the Farmer’s Market, and planning for future projects. The Cultural District is also comprised of several sub-committees who assist with planning and implementing events.
- NCA made the Natick Center Cultural District central to its efforts to achieve broader economic development goals for Natick Center.
- NCA uses committees and subcommittees to formalize relationships among and stay accountable to district partners, organizations and energized residents.
- A Memorandum of Understanding with the town designates NCA as the managing entity for the District, delineates the Town’s responsibilities for the District, establishes a Natick Center Cultural District Programming and Events committee, mandates a Town-designated “project representative” to act on its behalf as a member of the committee, and provides $80,000 in funds for programming and events.
- The subcommittee structure has given the Natick Center Cultural District flexibility to organize and engage new organizations and residents to contribute to the growth of the District.
Advice for Success
- Build strong partnerships with cultural anchors, Town staff, and local chamber of commerce. Ask them to put money toward the District and programming.
- Show businesses that you are focused helping their businesses thrive and giving them the opportunity to develop their own ideas.
- Be open to new ideas and new people who want to start programming, letting things grow organically and providing opportunities to be part of the organization through subcommittees.