The Real Story Behind The Woodruff Center's $2 Million Real Estate Windfall

Every now and then a nonprofit organization will come across money from non-grant sources. For example, an organization may sell an asset and, as a result, must ponder some interesting questions, like "Who do we sell the asset to?" and "What should we do with the money?" To see how one nonprofit organization addressed these questions, we turn to recent news out of Atlanta, which found the Woodruff Arts Center with a $1.9 million windfall after selling its 14th Street Playhouse.

First, let it be known that the Woodruff Arts Center did not sell the 14th Street Playhouse out of dire financial distress. Quite the opposite in fact. The center is an innovative arts hub and community center serving the populous and affluent Atlanta metropolitan area. Rather, the center found itself in the fortunate situation whereby the buyer in question was a current and future partner.

The center sold the theater to the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD), who will use the facility in concert with its new degree offerings in film and television, and for special events such as the aTVfest, a celebration of television and new media.

So our first takeaway for organizations looking to sell of property or assets? If possible, sell it to someone you can see yourself working with. (We imagine the theater was valuable real estate, so we're guessing it'd be a far less exciting development if the center sold it to, say, Burger King.)

But what about the money itself? After all, the center netted close to $2 million in the sale — not exactly chump change. How are they allocating these funds? First, rather than pocketing the entire windfall, they're giving more than half of it — $1 million — to Atlanta's Community Foundation. The foundation aims to use this funding to provide competitive financial grants to "nonprofit performing arts organizations" with an emphasis on dance and theater, and/or "performance venues to help offset costs incurred to rent performance spaces." (Speaking of which, check out IP's Theater Grant Finder guide here.)

This brings us to our second takeaway: Sure, it's nice to keep all the money, but if possible, give it to another local organization. It's here we really give the Woodruff Center credit. Woodruff currently offers robust theater offerings — one of their holdings is the Tony Award-winning Alliance Theatre — so they decided to share the wealth by giving a portion of the windfall to the Community Foundation. The result? Yet another local organization doing great things in the fields of theater and dance.

The remaining proceeds, meanwhile, will be used by the center to design programs with local artists across multiple artistic disciplines. (We can't begrudge them for keeping at least some of the money.)