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  • 10.21.13

Why An Arts Nonprofit Is Developing Web Dashboards

Arts nonprofit Fractured Atlas went where few in the nonprofit community go: Software development. Their new project, Artful.ly, is an integrated management system for artists and indie theaters.

Fractured Atlas, a New York-based arts organization, isn’t your typical nonprofit serving theaters and artists. For one thing, CEO Adam Huttler has a coding background. For another thing, Fractured Atlas is an arts nonprofit that’s involved in software development. Earlier this year, they acquired for-profit tech firm Gemini SBS as part of a continuing expansion into software products. On Monday, they’re formally unveiling free, web-based backend software for cash-strapped nonprofits.

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Artful.ly is described as a “web-based software system that transforms how smaller arts organizations sell tickets, raise funds, and grow their audiences and organizations.” Fractured Atlas described the platform to Co.Labs as an integrated alternative to using unconnected tools like Excel spreadsheets, email, third-party apps, and other products for nonprofits. There is no cost to institutions using them; instead, Artful.ly is paid for through a $2 ticket fee.

Selena Juneau-Vogel, Artful.ly’s program director, says it was developed by an in-house software team using Ruby on Rails. While the idea of an arts nonprofit having in-house software development is a bit unusual (the Metropolitan Opera reportedly has one, as do several other institutions), Fractured Atlas wanted to give smaller institutions access to similar tools for their own projects. Due to the popularity of MailChimp among the arts community, the service’s API is fully integrated–and Artful.ly offers developers their own APIs for ticket sales and donations. Huttler said that one of their goals was to give small theaters and galleries the ability to sell tickets on their own site, without having them go to an external ticketing site where potential patrons could be distracted by other events.

For this observer, one of the most intriguing things was record keeping for users. Artful.ly gives arts organizations metrics on ticket sales, donors, funds, and more. The platform can keep dossiers on donors and potential patrons–something that’s been lacking in various free alternatives currently on the market. “This is about giving the little guys the same tools, resources, and intelligence that big entertainments take for granted,” Huttler told me.

Artful.ly has been in beta for 1.5 years, with an open beta period in the past year. 1,400 organizations currently use the platform. Juneau-Vogel says that it “helps arts organizations track all their touch points with their fans,” and emphasized the community-driven design. When Artful.ly was under development, there was active outreach to nonprofits, which were urged to suggest features and functionality that may not have been apparent to the developers in New York. Huttler said that Fractured Atlas asked for a “psychological investment” from beta testers, who are all small arts institutions using it for everyday needs.

The platform currently comes in two flavors: A fully featured web platform designed for turnkey use–Juneau-Vogel said it can be used by an art institution of any size, from small organizations to large groups (the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, for instance, uses it)–and in open-source code freely available for integration and operation into any site. Fractured Atlas says most users have chosen to go with the web platform, and noted the importance of offering open code: Because artists aren’t attractive prospects, big software firms ignore them. Artful.ly is a way of working around that, and giving them the web backends they need.

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