Posted , by Michael Marks, Consultant. Topic: Arts & Culture, Giving USA.

It’s a good time to work in the arts. Charitable donations to this sector reached their highest level ever—an estimated $17.07 billion—last year, thumb according to Giving USA 2016: The Annual Report on Philanthropy for the Year 2015, which was released June 14.

Last month, our president Keith Curtis, immediate past chair of Giving USA Foundation, shared with the big-picture findings of Giving USA. The report showed a record level of overall giving in the United States—estimated at $373.25 billion—which represented a 4.1% increase over 2014. As we look deeper into the report, there’s more good news for the arts & culture sector.

DRILLING DOWN TO THE ARTS & CULTURE SECTOR
Giving to arts, culture and humanities organizations grew for the fourth consecutive year, at an average rate of 7.5% per year. Also of note:
• Giving to the arts, culture and humanities sector comprised 5% of total giving in 2015.
• Foundations gave several multi-million-dollar grants to arts, culture and humanities institutions in 2015.
• Many arts, culture and humanities organizations launched largescale campaigns in 2015—and the number of campaigns undertaken continues to rise.


ONLINE GIVING ON THE RISE

Online giving to sampled arts and culture organizations was much brighter in 2015 as compared with overall giving to the sector, according to Blackbaud. The sector saw an 8.3% increase in online donations compared with the previous year. Blackbaud also reported that arts and culture organizations realized their greatest year-over-year monthly increase in online giving in the three-month period ending in March (14.1%) before declining in April through June, and rising again to peak in September (16.4%).

STRONG SUPPORT FOR PROGRAMMATIC INITIATIVES
Programmatic initiatives in arts, culture and humanities institutions saw strong financial support in 2015. Large gifts were given to initiatives including diversity in programming, audience sustainability and preserving disappearing cultures. These gifts indicate donors are interested in helping institutions create lasting change.

HOW CAN YOUR ORGANIZATION RESPOND?
• Whether your organization is a large museum or a small performing arts studio, competition for campaign dollars is stiff—and will likely increase in the future.
• But this also means that if your competitors are in a campaign and your organization is not, you’re even less likely to receive those dollars.
• If your nonprofit has a programmatic initiative to increase diversity in the arts—whether that be through gender diversity, improving diversity in museum staff or enhancing diversity in your programming—foundations and individuals have shown interest in making impact through these initiatives.
• Craft your case carefully, concisely demonstrating how your program will help them achieve their desired result and lasting change.
• Ask yourself, is our program scalable?
• Consider partnering with another organization to implement the program and broaden the impact.
• Show your funders how you’re approaching the challenge on a macro level and are prepared to collaborate to implement change

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