Giving – Attending – and Wrecking.

Giving is Good

As you explore the topic of fundraising in chapter 12 in the fifth edition, you can add a review of the more recent trends in philanthropy by diving into the 2018 report published this June by Giving USA. The macro trends in giving last year were very positive with the total estimated to be $410.02 billion, an increase of 3% when adjusted for inflation. The overall giving estimate in the arts, culture, and humanities area was $19.5 billion, which was an increase of 6.4% in inflation-adjusted dollars. One trend that raised concerns was that the percentage of individuals giving averaged over five years (2013-2017) declined to 71% of the total. In the five-year period between 1978-1982 individuals made up 83% of the givers. The full report also offers some insights about the possible impact of the Tax Cut and Jobs Act on donations for 2018 and beyond (see page 102 of the full report).

Giving to Arts, Culture, and Humanities

Chapter 15 in Giving USA 2018 uses multiple report sources and includes the usual warning that “It is not intended to be a comprehensive survey of the subsector, but rather a collection of examples from the field.” [GUSA2015, p. 308] Therefore, exploring trends in giving to the arts, culture, and humanities in 2017 needs to be approached with your critical thinking filters fully engaged. For example, the Nonprofit Research Collaborative Winter 2018 Fundraising Survey indicated 67% of arts organization saw “improved fundraising results.” [GUSA2018, p. 309] One can then assume that 33% didn’t improve their results. Meanwhile, a survey report from Blackbaud of 8,900 nonprofits showed a decline in giving of 0.12 percent when comparing 2016 to 2017.

Class discussions about giving trends in the arts need to pay close attention to the source materials. This a situation where reviewing the Endnotes of the report chapter can come in handy. Reports like this can help students learn how to temper the urge to cheery pick positive outcomes.


NEA Attendance Report

In September the NEA issued a “first results” report of the 2017 Survey of Public Participation in the Arts. Data from the 2008 report is discussed in the fifth edition several times including chapters four and ten. This preview report can be a valuable tool for a class discussion about the changing dynamics of arts attendance and participation. Being able to look back to 2002 and follow trends to 2017 can help students gain a broader perspective on how complex the topic of arts attendance can be.

The report notes an increase in adults attending at least one type of arts activity in a year. Likewise, the percentage of adults attending live performance arts events was also up. It is also interesting to note how many adults don’t attend any arts events. For example, while it is impressive that 5.3 million people were estimated to have gone to an opera performance in 2017, that figure on represents only 2.2% of U.S. adults population. I didn’t have access to a more up to date report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (Expenditures On Admissions To The Arts, Movies, Sporting Events, And Other Entertainment), but I assume the fact that more people attend arts events than sporting events still holds when looking at the data for 2017.

One data table that might be interesting to discuss is the percentage of adults attending arts events by art form (p. 9 of the PDF). The report shows a lower percentage of attendance in 2017 when compared to 2002. However, the NEA table shows that the attendance numbers for 2017 increased across the board when compared to 2012.

As with the Giving USA 2018 report, these NEA results need to be kept in perspective. For example, the survey had a sample size of 27,969 adults 18 and over. The response rate was 67%, which is decent.


The 2013 Demise of the New York City Opera

The article from previewing Heidi Waleson’s new book Mad Scenes and Exit Arias: The Death of the New York City Opera and the Future of Opera in America is a good read. There is plenty of information in the “How Hiring a Superstar Wrecked New York City Opera” to sustain a lively class discussion about how not to manage a cultural organization. Governance dysfunction, chronic financial problems, and the impact of spending down an endowment are just a few of the talking points in this article. The excerpt focuses on the push to hire a new general manager who was used to running a state-supported opera company with an operating budget of $240 million (NYCO had budgets in the $35 to $40 million range), who had no experience in fundraising, and who could not start his job for two years. Issues such as creating budgets with $9 million operating deficits, fundraising expectations that were wildly optimistic, and changing the core programming schedule of the company contribute to creating a fascinating case study in mismanagement. The list of bad decisions goes on and, when the superstar bailed out of the general manager’s job, the opera company faced a grim future. In this case, it was bankruptcy.



Giving USA 2018: Americans Gave $410.02 Billion to Charity in 2017, Crossing the $400 Billion Mark for the First Time

Posted on June 13, 2018 at 1:19 am. Written by Giving USA

Stock market, economic conditions helped drive solid growth in contributions across the board

Powered by a booming stock market and a strong economy, charitable giving by American individuals, bequests, foundations and corporations to U.S. charities surged to an estimated $410.02 billion in 2017, according to Giving USA 2018: The Annual Report on Philanthropy for the Year 2017, released today.

Giving exceeded $400 billion in a single year for the first time, increasing 5.2 percent (3.0 percent adjusted for inflation) over the revised total of $389.64 contributed in 2016. (Please see below for a more detailed breakdown of the numbers for each philanthropic source and sector.)

Giving USA, the longest-running and most comprehensive report of its kind in America, is published by Giving USA Foundation, a public service initiative of The Giving Institute. It is researched and written by the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy at IUPUI.

“Americans’ record-breaking charitable giving in 2017 demonstrates that even in divisive times our commitment to philanthropy is solid. As people have more resources available, they are choosing to use them to make a difference, pushing giving over $400 billion,” said Aggie Sweeney, CFRE, chair of Giving USA Foundation and senior counsel at Campbell & Company. “Contributions went up nearly across the board, signaling that Americans seem to be giving according to their beliefs and interests, which are diverse and wide-ranging.”

Link to full press release:

Link to order free report summary:


New Report on Arts Attendance Shows Gains

National Endowment for the Arts Releases Data from Latest Survey of Public Participation in the Arts

September 12, 2018

Washington, DC—New survey findings from the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) show gains in arts attendance totals, rates, and demographic groups plus sizeable growth in poetry-reading. Published today, U.S. Trends in Arts Attendance and Literary Reading: 2002-2017 is a first look at results from the 2017 Survey of Public Participation in the Arts (SPPA). A partnership of the NEA and the U.S. Census Bureau, the SPPA is the nation’s largest and longest-running survey of how millions of adults participate in the arts. 

The gains in arts attendance in U.S. Trends in Arts Attendance and Literary Reading: 2002-2017 track with findings from a recent National Endowment for the Arts report, in partnership with the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, which shows growth in consumer spending at the box office for performing arts events. The performing arts together with other arts and cultural industries contributed more than $760 billion to the nation’s economy in 2015.

The new U.S. Trends report covers shifting patterns of arts attendance and literary reading as measured by the share of Americans aged 18 years and older who reported doing any of these activities at least once in a year. The report covers the years 2002, 2008, 2012, and 2017. 

“The growth in arts attendance indicates the increasing value of the arts in the everyday lives of Americans,” said Acting Chairman Mary Anne Carter. “From poetry reading to visiting a museum or attending a jazz performance, the arts are not only part of our lives, but also assets in our communities and fuel for our nation’s economy.”

Link to full press release:

Link to PDF of report:


How Hiring a Superstar Wrecked the New York City Opera

By Heidi Waleson| |October 2nd, 2018

When New York City Opera declared bankruptcy and went dark in 2013, its closure was blamed mostly on the global financial crisis. (Though NYCO is not dead: It was revived in 2016 and is trying to nurse itself back to health.) In Mad Scenes and Exit Arias: The Death of the New York City Opera and the Future of Opera in America, Heidi Waleson — The Wall Street Journal’s longtime opera critic — digs into the company’s finances and bad choices and comes up with a whole sea of disastrous decisions that led to its collapse. The book is being published today by Metropolitan Books; the excerpt below is exclusive to Vulture.

By the mid-2000s, New York City Opera was in a precarious financial position. For decades, it had been the People’s Opera—a place where the masses could find affordable entertainment—but now its audience was shrinking. Back in the company’s heyday, its audiences had been predominantly middle- and working-class immigrants whose connection to opera was visceral and went back to their countries of origin. But by the 1990s, their grandchildren no longer felt any “old country” attachment to opera as an art form. Those who were interested in opera would be more likely to choose the Met, with its famous singers and lavish productions. The numbers were no longer adding up. “It was a misalignment of supply and demand,” says Timothy O’Leary, who had been a member of the company’s management team. And supply was fixed: the company was locked into its union agreements.

Link to full story: