Nonprofit Provides Haven to Newport Jazz and Folk Festivals

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August 3, 2011; Source: NPR News | Back in August, NPQ reported on the Newport Jazz and Folk festivals’ conversion from nonprofit to for-profit and back to nonprofit again. Festival founder George Wein wanted foundations and music lovers to have the option of making tax-deductible contributions to the festivals, just as they would to any other cultural or arts organization. Having run the festivals on a for-profit basis since 1954 (not including the two years they were owned by a company that got into financial trouble and sold it back), Wein, an 85-year-old, one-time aspiring Jazz musician, believes creating the Newport Festivals Foundation is crucial to the survival of the oldest Jazz and Folk festivals in the United States. It is his hope that by establishing the festivals as a nonprofit, he will foster a sense of ownership among people who want to see them survive—thereby ensuring their permanence after he’s gone. 

While this weekend’s Folk Festival is sold out—thanks to such crowd pleasers as Elvis Costello and the Decembrists—making a profit has tended to be tougher for the Jazz Festival. Going forward, the Newport Festivals Foundation will look for public donations and sponsors to keep both afloat. As board chair of the nonprofit, Wein echoes a sentiment many of us can relate to on a bad day: ‘“I hate asking for money . . . I hate that. I hate being in the fundraising situation.”—Kristin Barrali