Arts, Culture, and Humanities

JUST BUFFALO LITERARY CENTER INC

  • Buffalo, NY
  • www.justbuffalo.org

Mission Statement

Just Buffalo Literary Center's mission is to create and strengthen communities through the literary arts.

Main Programs

  1. Babel International Author Series
  2. Just Buffalo Writing Center & Education Programs
  3. STUDIO and SILO Poetry Reading Series
  4. Spotlight on Youth/SOY
  5. LIT CITY
Service Areas

Self-reported

New York

Just Buffalo Literary Center is the sole provider of comprehensive writing and spoken arts programming in the eight county region of Western NY.  The organization serves more than 150,000 individuals each year with a particular emphasis on the City of Buffalo, Erie and Niagara Counties. Reach is extended well beyond the immediate area through the e-newsletter, website, management of the NYSCA New York State Literary Technical Assistance Program, and participation in the BABEL International Author Series which has attracted audience from 12 states and Canada.

ruling year

1994

Executive Director since 2002

Self-reported

Ms. Laurie Dean Torrell

Keywords

Self-reported

Literary Center, Author Series, Writing, Writing Center, At-risk youth, Youth Education Programs, Poetry Readings, Education Programs, Writing Workshops

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Also Known As

Just Buffalo

EIN

22-2995665

 Number

7668909537

Contact

Cause Area (NTEE Code)

Arts, Cultural Organizations - Multipurpose (A20)

Arts Education/Schools (A25)

Community Coalitions (S21)

IRS Filing Requirement

This organization is required to file an IRS Form 990 or 990-EZ.

Programs + Results

How does this organization make a difference?

Overview

Self-reported by organization

Just Buffalo believes in the love of reading, the art of writing and the power of the literary arts to transform individual lives and communities. Our BABEL Series has connected the WNY community with the world's most significant writers, in the process drawing one of the largest audiences for a literary series anywhere. The new Just Buffalo Writing Center is having a dramatic impact on teens 12-18 who will be the next generation of literary voices. A great way for you to see Just Buffalo's impact is through watching "40 Stories" testimonials which are available on our website www.justbuffalo.org.

Programs

Self-reported by organization

What are the organization's current programs, how do they measure success, and who do the programs serve?

Program 1

Babel International Author Series

Just Buffalo Literary Center’s Babel series has captured the community’s imagination, and is leading a whole new level of literary engagement here in Western New York.  The series – which brings 4 leading authors to Buffalo each year – is being called “the most exciting literaryseries that Buffalo has ever seen.”

Category

Arts, Culture & Humanities

Population(s) Served

General Public/Unspecified

Budget

$250,000.00

Program 2

Just Buffalo Writing Center & Education Programs

Extending its 30+ year history of providing comprehensive in-school educational programming ranked among the best in the nation, Just Buffalo has established a community-driven Writing Center in downtown Buffalo to provide the kind of focused attention and writing instruction that has become impossible for teachers to provide during the regular school day.

Unlike other tutoring and academic outreach initiatives, Just Buffalo’s Writing Center provides a supportive environment, one-on-one attention, and engaging opportunities for students, ages 12-18, to practice writing without the constraints of curricular requirements or academic grades. Grounded in the arts and built on an apprenticeship model, this programming is not based on remediation (though students can and do receive such support), but rather focused on inspiration; helping them to improve creative and expository writing skills while building community and promoting Buffalo’s already vibrant literary and cultural presence.

During its first full year in operation (2015), the JBWC served 267 individual students who attended 73 program sessions. Twenty-seven writers and teaching artists were employed, and the project has resulted in the creation of 2 new part-time positions. With retention much higher than anticipated, the Writing Center has reached capacity and needs to add a third day in order to meet demand; something slated to take place in 2016-2017.

Category

Arts, Culture & Humanities

Population(s) Served

Youth/Adolescents only (14 - 19 years)

Children Only (5 - 14 years)

Budget

$250,000.00

Program 3

STUDIO and SILO Poetry Reading Series

(2) STUDIO and the Silo City Summer Series recall Just Buffalo’s early days as a poetry reading series. STUDIO brings locally and nationally acclaimed poets together for readings and in-depth discussions in the new JB Writing Center. With readings in Buffalo’s historic grain elevators, the Silo City Summer Series brings the best of Buffalo’s arts & cultural community together for poetry, musical acts and visual arts installations.

Category

Arts, Culture & Humanities

Population(s) Served

General Public/Unspecified

Budget

$25,000.00

Program 4

Spotlight on Youth/SOY

Spotlight on Youth is the collaborative endeavor of 14 youth-serving and cultural organizations committed to providing an open forum for young people ages 12-21 to share original poetry, songs, dance, and music. Begun in 2004 by Just Buffalo, with lead support from Gay & Lesbian Youth Services and Planned Parenthood of WNY, participation in the series has grown steadily every year from 5-20 kids per coffee house the to 125-plus this year.  The quality of the work being performed and presented has become stronger and stronger, with young people taking visible pride in being able to express their creative talents to a supportive and significant audience. Events are held every other month at The Smith Theatre and are accomplished in collaboration with Baker Victory Services, Boys and Girls Clubs of Buffalo, Compass House, Every Person Influences Children (EPIC), Family Voices Network of Erie County, Fillmore-Leroy Area Residents (FLARE), Gay & Lesbian Youth Services (GLYS), Gilda’s Club, Hispanics United of Buffalo, Literacy Volunteers of Buffalo & Erie County, Native American Community Services of Erie and Niagara Counties (NACS), Planned Parenthood of WNY, Speak Your Mind, and the YWCA of WNY. Participation is free and open to the public with no ongoing commitment required, creating opportunities for transitional youth and those unable to commit to long-term activities to participate.

Category

Arts, Culture & Humanities

Population(s) Served

Youth/Adolescents only (14 - 19 years)

Budget

$10,000.00

Program 5

LIT CITY

The City of Buffalo has an extraordinary literary history. Many do not realize that we have one of the country’s top literary centers, literary legacies, and literary scenes—right here in Western New York. Perhaps some people know that Mark Twain and F. Scott Fitzgerald once lived in Buffalo but few are aware that Buffalo has been home to historically significant poets, novelists, and playwrights including Robert Creeley, Lucille Clifton, Ishmael Reed, Charles Olson, Emanuel Fried, Susan Howe, Charles Bernstein and Carl Dennis.

LIT CITY is a marketing, branding, and public art initiative being spearheaded by Just Buffalo Literary Center which seeks to package and present the literary assets of Buffalo in a way that shapes this city as a literary landmark and destination.

LIT CITY seeks to enable the literary arts—a vital component of this community’s unique cultural heritage—to fully contribute to Buffalo’s efforts to rebuild the central city, attract visitors, and further develop heritage and cultural assets as articulated in Buffalo’s Queen City in the 21st Century plan and the WNY Regional Economic Development “Strategy for Prosperity in WNY”.

While not everyone may want to listen or attend a poetry reading or literary event, anyone can be inspired by the words of Buffalo’s great writers as they walk along its streets and see our community’s first literary corridor banners honoring writers who have lived and worked in Buffalo, or public art pieces and literary place markers.

Expected outcomes and deliverables of LIT CITY include:
• The Literary Arts join Buffalo’s other great heritage and cultural assets to further brand the city as a world-class cultural destination.
• Increased awareness among the local community and visitors about the quantity and quality of literary arts initiatives available in WNY.
• New opportunities and increased visitors to literary arts programs and venues.
• Literary Arts integrated into cultural tourism initiatives and increasingly serving as a tourism draw, including for young adults, families, educators and retirees.
• Increased media visibility and feature stories to promote literary arts venues and programs (measured by coverage generated).
• Enhanced literary arts programs, expanding access and increasing jobs for contracted writers and artists.

Category

Arts, Culture & Humanities

Population(s) Served

General Public/Unspecified

Budget

$100,000.00

Results

Self-reported by organization

How does this organization measure their results? It's a hard question but an important one. These quantitative program results are self-reported by the organization, illustrating their committment to transparency, learning, and interest in helping the whole sector learn and grow.

1. Number of organizational partners

Target Population
No target populations selected

Connected to a Program?
n/a
TOTALS BY YEAR
Context notes for this metric

2. Community members reached through all programs and activities

Target Population
No target populations selected

Connected to a Program?
n/a
TOTALS BY YEAR
Context notes for this metric

3. Percent of board members who made a personal financial commitment to support the organization this year

Target Population
No target populations selected

Connected to a Program?
n/a
TOTALS BY YEAR
Context notes for this metric
100% of Just Buffalo's board members make a personal financial commitment to the organization in an amount meaningful and significant to them.

4. Number of high quality feature stories successfully placed in major media outlets to increase awareness and opportunities for participation

Target Population
No target populations selected

Connected to a Program?
n/a
TOTALS BY YEAR
Context notes for this metric

5. Number of students attending free writing workshops, open mics, meet the author events and in-school programs with evidence of increased confidence, writing ability and aspirations

Target Population
No target populations selected

Connected to a Program?
n/a
TOTALS BY YEAR
Context notes for this metric
Students from 35 schools attended 56 different free workshops presented by 27 teaching artists at the JB Writing Center, as well as open mics, meet the author events and in-school writer residencies.

Charting Impact

Self-reported by organization

Five powerful questions that require reflection about what really matters - results.

  1. What is the organization aiming to accomplish?
    We envision a community that fully supports and values the love of reading, the art of writing, and the power of the literary arts to transform individual lives and communities.  Our programs are designed work towards this end.
  2. What are the organization's key strategies for making this happen?
    Always working towards this vision, Just Buffalo's Strategic Business Plan outlines key objectives designed to: (1) Bring the world's most important writers and poets to the people of Erie County & WNY; (2) Support a vibrant literary community; and (3) Foster the development of young and emerging writers. In addition, Just Buffalo seeks to play a meaningful role in helping Erie County meet some of its most important 21st Century goals: (1) Revitalize Buffalo & Erie County's central city core; (2) Improve education and job skills training; and, (3) Capitalize on regional cultural assets.
  3. What are the organization's capabilities for doing this?
    Just Buffalo's success can be attributed to the determination of a strong and stable staff and Board; an unwavering commitment to strategic planning, fiscal management and evaluation; and, the implementation of a series of innovative collaborative ventures. Having undergone a comprehensive series of infrastructure and program development initiatives over the past several years, and through fortitude and a willingness to develop efficient new models for doing business, Just Buffalo has created one of the nation's most highly regarded author series (BABEL), one of New York State's most successful youth education writing programs (Writers in Education and the new Just Buffalo Writing Center), and one of WNY's most stable and vibrant cultural centers—taking its programming and visibility to a level that will significantly enhance its participation and influence on Buffalo's revitalized 21st century identity.


  4. How will they know if they are making progress?
    Just Buffalo uses a variety of tools to evaluate the success of its programs and activities. The organization regularly surveys audience members and program participants, and in anticipation of its 40th Anniversary Campaign, conducted personal interviews with key stakeholders; held two Marketing Focus Groups; and hosted two Education Roundtables to gain in-depth audience feedback from more than 80 people. The next extensive audience survey is being planned for 2017.

    The results of Just Buffalo's work, and the effectiveness of its programs and operations, are measured using a customized Key Indicators Report developed during strategic planning as well as a Balanced Scorecard approach. This assesses the impact and success of all of Just Buffalo's programs across the following dimensions: Number of people reached (compared with goal, contrasted with past or similar programs, reach to highest need communities); Qualitative Impact (self-described impact, participant and partner feedback); Financial Stewardship (actual expenses vs. budgeted, in-kind support leveraged, new donors and funders); Other benefits (new partnerships established, media coverage, new members enrolled); and, when possible, Quantitative Impact (changes in skill, attitudes, behavior, and achievement levels).

    Financial operations are closely monitored through an annual budget process, bi-monthly balance sheet and budget versus actual reports, grant tracking and account reconciliation. Programs are regularly evaluated for attendance, responsiveness to community needs, and financial viability. The board, reflecting diverse representation from the community, provides invaluable insight and perspective. By proactively adapting to changing conditions and acting on new opportunities as they arise, Just Buffalo not only remains relevant, but also serves as a leader in Erie County's cultural community.
  5. What have and haven't they accomplished so far?
    With numerous points of entry into the literary experience and by providing opportunities for diverse individuals to interact with some of the world's most important poets and authors, Just Buffalo is transforming its community's reading identity. Audiences of all ages, education levels, and abilities are becoming more engaged with reading and writing as they witness first-hand the impact that great literature can have on their lives. Such literary greats as Mark Twain, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Lucille Clifton, and Robert Creeley have all called Buffalo home, and now this legacy is propelling Buffalo's future, impacting the value that young people, their parents and members of the larger community place on reading and writing. This is evidenced by Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown's recent designation of Just Buffalo's downtown neighborhood as the city's “Literary Corridor."

    Further evidence of Just Buffalo's impact and importance to its local community can be found in the success of its JB40 Anniversary Campaign. This three-year, $1 million fundraising effort was designed to coincide with the organization's 40th Anniversary to provide the capacity for sustainability, advancement, and innovation with an eye toward making the strongest possible contribution to the community going forward. Launched on November 1, 2014 and continuing through the end of this year, Just Buffalo is proud to announce that 90% of its goal has been achieved through a robust mix of individual and business contributions, foundation grants, and government support. This campaign has made possible the new JB Writing Center, significantly expanded marketing and outreach, and the creation of a small reserve to help weather what has become an extremely turbulent funding environment.

    Acknowledgement of Just Buffalo's 40th anniversary further reveals the high regard with which the organization is held within Western New York as well as on the national stage. Locally, Ron Ehmke wrote a retrospective feature article for Buffalo Spree's April issue and Bruce Jackson wrote a retrospective piece for The Public. The Poetry Foundation in Chicago shared the Jackson piece on their national website and both Publishers Weekly and Poets & Writers Magazine (with a readership of 100,000+) featured Just Buffalo in 2016. These pieces help elevate the profile of Literature; and demonstrate that nationally important literary programs are not confined to New York City but exist also throughout New York State and in Upstate New York.

Service Areas

Self-reported

New York

Just Buffalo Literary Center is the sole provider of comprehensive writing and spoken arts programming in the eight county region of Western NY.  The organization serves more than 150,000 individuals each year with a particular emphasis on the City of Buffalo, Erie and Niagara Counties. Reach is extended well beyond the immediate area through the e-newsletter, website, management of the NYSCA New York State Literary Technical Assistance Program, and participation in the BABEL International Author Series which has attracted audience from 12 states and Canada.

Social Media

Funding Needs

As Just Buffalo celebrates 40 years as one of the nation's most active and important cultural centers, it is clear that we are on the threshold of an even greater era of service. Gifts of all sizes and for all programs are gratefully accepted and very much appreciated. The JB40 campaign is a 3-year $1M campaign (2015-2017) designed to strengthen our current programming and fund new projects designed to fulfill our mission as we realize our vision for the future. Things being made possible through JB40 include launch of the new JB Writing Center for teens, expanded marketing & outreach, and a strategic reserve so essential to managing risk. Support Literary Arts today and your donation will be matched! A generous donor has agreed to match every new or increased donation up to $10,000. Join the Literary Leadership Circle The Literary Leadership Circle was created to recognize our most loyal and generous donors, and provide Just Buffalo Literary Center with the backing needed to consistently present literary programs of the highest quality. Literary Leaders support the mission of Just Buffalo Literary Center through a pledge of $5,000 or more (total) over a consecutive three-year period. This multi-year unrestricted support is among the most precious we receive as it can be used where most needed. Just Buffalo Writing Center The new Just Buffalo Writing Center provides free year-round after school workshops for teens 12-18. A gift of $500 or more helps make possible one of these workshops. Just Buffalo Literary Center has earned national recognition as one of the top ten leading literary centers in the United States. With the generous support of our friends, a whole new era of literary excellence, education and innovation is within reach.

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Financials

Financial information is an important part of gauging the short- and long-term health of the organization.

JUST BUFFALO LITERARY CENTER INC
Fiscal year: Jul 01-Jun 30
Yes, financials were audited by an independent accountant.

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Operations

The people, governance practices, and partners that make the organization tick.

JUST BUFFALO LITERARY CENTER INC

Leadership

NEED MORE INFO ON THIS NONPROFIT?

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  • Address, phone, website and contact information
  • Forms 990 for 2015, 2014 and 2013
  • Board Chair, Board Co-Chair and Board Members
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Executive Director

Ms. Laurie Dean Torrell

BIO

Laurie Dean Torrell is Executive Director of Just Buffalo Literary Center, one of the 10 largest literary arts centers in the nation (www.justbuffalo.org). Under her leadership, the organization has secured competitive grants and donations to more than double the budget and bring expanded literary programming to the community including the BABEL International author series, now called “the most exciting literary series that Buffalo has ever seen."

Since assuming leadership in 2002, and with staff and board, Torrell has brought the organization to a new position of strength and visibility through strong management, high profile programs, statewide leadership and forward thinking collaborations.

In conjunction with Just Buffalo's 40th Anniversary, Torrell and campaign chair Anne Y. Taylor are spearheading JB40, a three-year $1M campaign (2015-2017) to fully establish the new Just Buffalo Writing Center for teens, expand visibility and participation, and ensure Just Buffalo's work and mission remain vital for years to come.

STATEMENT FROM THE Executive Director

"Established in 1975, and celebrating its 40th Anniversary in 2015-2017, Just Buffalo (www.justbuffalo.org) is a remarkable organization that has grown from a small poetry series into one of the nation's top literary centers. It serves the WNY region with author readings and conversations, poetry readings, literary events, writing workshops, interdisciplinary performances, a comprehensive website, and publications. Our signature international author series BABEL has been recognized as “…the most exciting literary series Buffalo has ever seen," and our newest program, the Just Buffalo Writing Center, offers after-school writing workshops, mentoring, and a year-round writer in residence to teens in downtown Buffalo.

Just Buffalo believes in the love of reading, the art of writing, and the power of the literary arts to change individual lives and communities, putting this into practice through award-winning programs that provide direct benefit to more than 150,000 individuals and 1,000 students each year.
 
Just Buffalo has a strong track record of successfully securing competitive federal, state, and private grants to bring dynamic programs to Western New York, and we will continue to do so.  But most important is the remarkable loyalty and generosity of our many individual supporters. The support of committed individual donors has always been the decisive factor, and will continue to be what makes these ambitious and important programs possible.  With this continued support, we look forward with optimism."

Governance

BOARD CHAIR

Mr. James Bachwitz

VP Adelman Research Group

Term: July 2014 - June 2017

BOARD LEADERSHIP PRACTICES

GuideStar worked with BoardSource, the national leader in nonprofit board leadership and governance, to create this section, which enables organizations and donors to transparently share information about essential board leadership practices. Self-reported by organization

Yes

BOARD ORIENTATION & EDUCATION

Does the board conduct a formal orientation for new board members and require all board members to sign a written agreement regarding their roles, responsibilities, and expectations?

Yes

CEO OVERSIGHT

Has the board conducted a formal, written assessment of the chief executive within the past year?

Yes

ETHICS & TRANSPARENCY

Have the board and senior staff reviewed the conflict-of-interest policy and completed and signed disclosure statements in the past year?

Yes

BOARD COMPOSITION

Does the board ensure an inclusive board member recruitment process that results in diversity of thought and leadership?

Yes

BOARD PERFORMANCE

Has the board conducted a formal, written self-assessment of its performance within the past three years?