Making Your Case for Support for the Arts

Hey! I’m back! Guess where I was?

An encaustic art conference in Cape Cod!

It was so fun. I saw tons of demos, lots of talks and panels, and I took a workshop in how to create encaustic 3-D forms! While I was there, I went out to eat, stayed at a hotel, bought art supplies and frequented a cute little local coffeeshop called “The Wired Puppy!”

The Wired puppy coffeeshop, Provincetown

Why am I telling you all this?

To show you that the arts drive the economy all over the country. But you don’t have to take MY word for it!

Do you raise money for an arts organization?

You will love this post!

When I worked for the Austin Civic Orchestra in Texas, I had to write proposals to get grants from all different kinds of grantmakers, including the county, the arts venues themselves, and private foundations. I was frustrated because a lot of funders just didn’t seem to value the arts. They would say, “Well, we want to give to you, but part of our grantmaking is also human services, and we think that is more important.” And I couldn’t really argue with that. Until today.

The arts don’t exist in a vacuum. This post will show you how to justify the existence of the arts in your city or town. It will show you hard numbers of how the arts actually contribute to the local economy, create jobs and help regions thrive.

If you’ve ever scratched your head trying to make a case for support for your arts nonprofit, you can add this to your toolbox.

The Americans for the Arts has just done a significant, comprehensive look at the impact that the nonprofit arts have on our economy, and our arts programs add up to $135.2 BILLION more dollars for the economy.

“Our fourth study of the nonprofit arts and culture industry’s impact on the economy, the most comprehensive study of its kind ever conducted, features customized findings on 182 study regions representing all 50 states and the District of Columbia as well as estimates of economic impact nationally. Despite the economic headwinds that our country faced in 2010, the results are impressive.

  • Nationally, the industry generated $135.2 billion of economic activity — [including] $61.1 billion by the nation’s nonprofit arts and culture organizations.
  • This economic activity supports 4.1 million full-time jobs.
  • Attendance at arts events generates $74.1 billion in expenditures by audiences for local businesses — restaurants, parking garages, hotels, retail stores. An average arts attendee spends $24.60 per event in addition to the cost of admission.
  • In addition, data shows nonlocal attendees spend twice as much as local attendees ($39.96 vs. $17.42), demonstrating that when a community attracts cultural tourists, it harnesses significant economic rewards.
  • Our industry also generates $22.3 billion in revenue to local, state, and federal governments every year — a yield well beyond their collective $4 billion in arts allocations.”

The findings dispel the myth that the nonprofit arts and culture sector is an economic “black hole” and provide proof that when people, corporations, foundations, and governments support the nonprofit arts, they are also supporting economic and community development.

I had so much fun at my art conference, and spent upwards of $1,000 to be there. It was totally worth it, I learned a ton, made a lot of connections and I am definitely going back. If the conference didn’t exist, I wouldn’t be spending money in Provincetown, on Cape Cod. Did I mention I was one of 250 people who attended this conference? That’s $250,000 this art conference brought into Cape Cod alone, a conservative estimate, since unlike me, many people stayed after the conference to take a week of workshops!

Lisa Zukowski lays down the knowledge at the Encaustic conference

When the Austin Civic Orchestra (ACO) plays free concerts at Zilker park this month in Austin, Texas, they may not charge people to be there, but they support the local economy, because people buy gas to get to the concert, go to a restaurant before they go to the concert, and buy drinks at the concert from vendors. They may also pay to get into the Barton Springs swimming pool right next door. Hundreds of people attend these concerts every year.

Because ACO is such a tiny arts nonprofit, no one ever adds up how much money they generate for the economy. But no matter how small you are, you can now figure out how much your nonprofit stimulates the economy.

Next time someone tells you the arts are not important, you will have data to prove them wrong.

Here’s a calculator that will help you discover the economic impact your arts nonprofit has on your local economy.

Here is a link to the summary of the 300+ page report

Here’s a link to the full report, you can break it down by city, state, etc.

You now have a lot of data to justify not only arts spending by foundations, but to help allocate state, county and city money towards your art nonprofit in the name of economic growth!

If you liked this post, email it to a friend who fundraises for the arts too!

Help them get grants or advocate for more city, state, county or federal funding with this report!

Are you going to use this report? If so, how? Tell me in the comments!

Posted in