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Where is the Arts Loan Fund Heading?

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Have you and your grantees heard of the Arts Loan Fund (ALF)? It has been a key part of NCG's history for 29 years. Read the Q&A with our own Michelle Bermudez, Manager of Collaborative Philanthropy and the newest ALF leader, Allison Magee Co-Chair of the ALF Steering Committee, to learn more.  

Where is the Arts Loan Fund Heading?

Michelle Bermúdez, manages an array of collaborative philanthropy endeavors at Northern California Grantmakers where she develops strategies and pathways for collaboration by cultivating mutually beneficial partnerships built on an agreed set of recommendations that help identify solutions to our communities’ most pressing issues.  

What is the Arts Loan Fund?

The Arts Loan Fund makes small, quick, low interest loans of $10,000 to $50,000 for nonprofit art organizations experiencing cash flow issues. There is no bank process or credit score check, rather local art non-profits use secured grants or proceeds from benefits and performances to guarantee loan payments.  This model was developed specifically in response to the unique needs and revenue cycles of arts organizations, and has served as a tremendous resource to the Bay Area arts community.

Why Join the ALF?

The ALF is a true testimony to the power of the collective. For almost 30 years, NCG members have pooled their investments to support one of the most prominent and vibrant arts communities in the nation.  From ensuring the continuation of arts education programs,  to vibrant music and dance productions and fundraising benefits, the ALF has been an instrumental resource to several hundred local arts organizations and artists.  

It is a means for our members to provide immediate capital and help support a thriving arts community especially through these challenging economic times.  

Do you like it?

I am incredibly humbled to do this work.  Everytime I get to speak to local artists about a project they are needing support for, or everytime I schedule a check sigining with a borrower, or everytime the steering committee gets together, I always feel so alive and incredibly lucky to play this role.  The dedication of the ALF steering committee to the arts is so evident; it goes beyond providing loans and grants. Their personal knowledge of the arts, their "off-time" visiting local exhibits, plays, dance, music, their sincere concern around the issues many local artists are facing  - this kind of commitment ignites my passion and fuels my work - it makes me strive to be a better facilitator, manager, and partner.  

Just knowing what we've already done together and "the so much more we are about to do" gets me excited! 

Any personal success stories?


I was walking down Mission Street and saw a building with a banner that said “Root Division Opening Soon." Root Division is a visual arts nonprofit that connects creativity and community through a dynamic ecosystem of arts education, exhibits and studios. The Arts Loan Fund provided them with financial resources that helped expedite their move into a 13,000 square feet multi-level space, in the heart of mid-market, San Francisco.  


Where’s the energy for the fund coming from?

Allison Magee (New Co-Chair)

Two years into her role as Executive Director of the Zellerbach Family Foundation, Allison Magee has stepped into new leadership roles, co-chairing the Arts Loan Fund and serving on Northern California Grantmakers’ board of directors.

Have you personally been the chair of a committee like this?

The Zellerbach Family Foundation was actually one of the founding members of NCG as well as the ALF Committee. When I learned about the model, I was immediately intrigued by its role within the Bay Area arts community and its potential for growth looking ahead. 

What interested you about the position and why did you accept?

ZFF has always held a strong commitment to the Bay Area arts community, and we recognize and value the role of the ALF in supporting local arts organizations.  I am also drawn to the collaborative nature of the ALF model.  The ongoing commitment of the committee members says a lot about the arts funding community and how we choose to work together.  NCG’s new leadership is another important factor that played into my decision.  The energy and enthusiasm that Michelle brings to the committee is just one example of how NCG is working to support and advance the broader efforts of the non-profit and philanthropic sectors.

What are your goals for the committee?

For now, I want to learn more from the other committee members and our grantees about how the ALF can best respond to the needs of the Bay Area arts community.    I think there is a lot of potential with a model like the ALF to support arts organizations through a variety of efforts including capacity building and technical assistance.  But, before anything we need to do our best to understand the challenges facing arts organizations and our role as funders in meeting those challenges.

What distinguishes the Arts Loan Fund?

  • ALF is a well-established fund in which all the players (funders and arts organizations) value deeply. 
  • The ALF are not bankers making loan decisions, instead they are a dedicated group of art funders who are providing a critical resource to the arts community, that they wouldn’t be able to do on their own.
  • The ALF is collaboration at its best, this is what we should point to for purpose, agency, connection, alignment and energy. It is collaboration at its deepest - with a clear focus, and coalescence of members and nonmembers, bridging and leveraging dollars to support the arts through difficult times or into new opportunities.


Learn More

To learn more about the Arts Loan Fund or find out how to join, contact Michelle Bermudez at