Where Does Corporate Giving to the Arts Go?

Recent studies by Americans for the Arts, Giving USA, and others have drawn welcome public attention to the role of corporate giving in the creative ecology -- some sounding alarms and others offering rays of hope.

Now, the organization I run, Dance/NYC, is weighing in with State of NYC Dance and Corporate Giving, which segments available Cultural Data Project data on dance group budget size, type and geography to address equity in the distribution of resources. No matter how we segment the data, the findings are bleak for most dance groups and invite collective action to enlarge and stabilize business support.

By Size

Snapshot (now) analyses show the largest local dance groups, with budgets of more than $5 million, receive 76 percent of total corporate support and (at 6 percent) a marginally higher share of their total contributed income from this source than smaller groups. Only 19 percent of those with budgets of less than $100K report income from any corporation.

Trend (over time) analyses show groups of all -- yes, all -- sizes faced declining corporate revenue, a staggering 62 percent in the aggregate from 2008 to 2012. But for midsize groups ($500K-999K), the losses (at 82 percent) were the most substantial. These findings invite strategy focused on introducing the smallest groups to businesses and on increasing private sector engagement with dance along the continuum of budget sizes.

By Group Type

Snapshot analyses show 80 percent of total corporate dollars invested in the sample of local dance groups is focused on dance makers, those who create and perform dance. Presenting institutions experienced the most significant decline in corporate giving as a share of their contributed income, from 14 percent down to 3 percent.

By Borough

The vast majority (94 percent) of corporate gifts are made to groups based in Manhattan (71 percent of the total sample), but the difference in corporate income as a share of contributed sources for groups in Manhattan and Brooklyn is negligible. Only Manhattan-based groups experienced evident declines from over the five-year period studied, and groups in the Bronx, Queens and Staten Island collectively reported increases.

The equity issues examined in this study will need to be monitored over time, and Dance/NYC both advocates for and seeks more far more inclusive data to ensure the relevance and cultural competence of its research and policy positions.

The research is well timed, coming nearly one year into a new mayoral administration and City Council. For public officials, it can be a tool for developing policies and programs to increase cooperationwith the private sector and incentivize business participation in the arts. For corporate funders, it is a call to action to invest in their communities. For artists and companies, of all sizes, types and locations, it is a management tool and resource to advocate and build awareness.