Monday, December 6, 2010

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Catherine Brandt

Business Contributions to Arts Continue to Drop in Tough Economy According to New Survey by Americans for the Arts

Small and Mid-Sized Companies Contribute More of Total Arts Giving than Large Businesses

WASHINGTON, D.C. —Since the economic downturn and subsequent recession, fewer U.S. companies are making philanthropic contributions to the arts. Still, those companies that have continued their support actually gave a slightly greater share of their charitable dollars to the arts according to a new survey by the Business Committee for the Arts (BCA), a division of Americans for the Arts, the nation’s nonprofit organization for advancing the arts. Unlike most business philanthropy studies, the BCA report examines the giving habits of small- and medium-sized businesses as well as large ones. And according to the survey small and mid-sized companies are actually contributing a larger share of their philanthropic dollars to the arts than large companies.

The BCA Triennial Survey of Business Support to the Arts report, which examined the giving habits of 600 small, mid-size and large U.S. companies that give philanthropically from 2006-2009, shows that the number of businesses providing charitable support for the arts fell 15 percent—from 43 percent to 28 percent—from 2006-2009. However, the percent of surveyed businesses giving to any charitable cause dropped 18 percent—from 70 percent to 52 percent during the same period. Still, the percentage the arts receive of total charitable contributions increased from 13 percent in 2006 to 15 percent in 2009.

“It is remarkable that so many companies maintained such strong support for the arts during the turbulent economic climate experienced over the past few years,” says Robert L. Lynch, president and CEO of Americans for the Arts. “Investing in the arts not only improves community quality of life, but also helps attract and retain a skilled workforce and build new markets. In addition, arts giving builds successful, lasting partnerships with the business community.”

Philanthropic Support for Arts Tied to Companies’ Bottom Line

According to the survey, about one-third of businesses (37 percent) support specific arts organizations because of ties to corporate goals, and another two-thirds (67 percent) acknowledged choosing organizations that provide opportunities for corporate recognition. The overwhelming majority of companies (74 percent) said that profitability was the most important factor they considered when deciding whether to increase their support for the arts or begin supporting the arts. Nearly two-thirds (63 percent) said they would boost their arts giving or begin supporting the arts if their contribution would have a direct impact on their bottom line. Further, businesses—both those that currently support the arts and those that do not—agree that arts giving can also benefit them by increasing name recognition (79 percent) and offering networking opportunities and the potential to develop new business (74 percent).

“In recent years, business support of the arts has shifted from general charitable giving to a more marketing-based and sponsorship-oriented strategy, enabling businesses to support the arts as well as use the arts to meet their business goals,” says John Barrett, Chairman, President and CEO of Western & Southern Financial Group and BCA Executive Board member. “By tying a company’s arts giving to their bottom line, arts organizations have a unique opportunity to make a solid case for charitable support.”

Small and Mid-Sized Business Support for the Arts Grows

The survey shows that support from small and mid-size businesses increased while arts giving among large businesses has waned. From 2006-2009 the median gift from large businesses shrank from $25,000 to $15,500. Gifts from small businesses, however, grew from $500 to $700 during the same period, and mid-sized gifts rose from $2,000 to $2,250. Given the sheer number of small- and mid-size businesses in the U.S., they represent the largest share of arts dollars (93 percent) while large businesses represent 7 percent.

In addition to monetary support, the survey also examined in-kind contributions (non-cash donations) businesses provide to arts organizations. It found that from 2006-2009, the number of companies giving in-kind donations to arts organizations from small companies jumped from 46 percent to 60 percent. However, just under half (46 percent) of large businesses provided non-cash contributions to the arts in 2009 compared to 57 percent three years prior. In-kind giving among mid-sized companies remained relatively steady at 57 percent.

“While large businesses increasingly operate in a global marketplace, most businesses—particularly small businesses—remain highly focused on local markets,” says Dr. Mark Shugoll, BCA Executive Board member and CEO of Shugoll Research. “As such, arts organizations have a natural opportunity to build partnerships with these companies by providing innovative programs serving broad community audiences.”

Americans for the Arts will be hosting a webinar and a conversation about the survey on ARTSblog. The BCA Triennial Survey webinar will take place on December 8, 2010 at 3:00 p.m. EST. In a discussion led by Shugoll, business funders will discuss the survey’s findings in terms of why and how they support the arts and compare the extent of their current and future giving. Panelists include Alessandra DiGiusto, chief administrative officer, Deutsche Bank Americas Foundation; Jeff Eberlein, managing partner, Strata-G Communications; and Carole Morse, president, Portland General Electric Foundation. To register, click here.

To participate in a discussion on how business funding for the arts has changed and how arts organizations are responding, join the Private Sector Blog Salon at ARTSblog December 6-10, 2010. Bloggers include Akhtar Badshah, Sr. Global Community Affairs, Microsoft; Courtney King, Manager of Communications, Committee Encouraging Corporate Philanthropy (CECP); Bruce Whitacre, Executive Director, National Corporate Theatre Fund, and others.

For a copy of the BCA Survey Executive Summary, click here (PDF, 93KB).


Americans for the Arts is the leading nonprofit organization for advancing the arts in America. With offices in Washington, D.C. and New York City, it has a record of 50 years of service. Americans for the Arts is dedicated to representing and serving local communities and creating opportunities for every American to participate in and appreciate all forms of the arts. Additional information is available at