July 2019: Trends in U.S. Arts Philanthropy

This month, the Philanthropologist will explore some of the interesting changes in arts philanthropy in the U.S. For further reading on the history of arts funding, I recommend the excellent 2018 report by Grantmakers in the Arts and the 2015 report on funding for artists of color by the University of Maryland.

Key established trends:

  • Arts philanthropy took a dive during the recession and has not yet made a complete recovery.  This includes both government funds, private contributions, and corporate support. 
  • The majority of arts philanthropy comes from individual donors.  Foundation, government, and corporate support has shrunk since 2001 but individual support has grown slightly.  The primary source of revenue for arts organizations is earned income (membership fees, investment income, etc.).
  • The majority of arts funding from individuals and foundations is to museums and performing arts venues.  The majority of all arts funding also goes to organizations with budgets over $5M.
  • Among high-level individual donors, it is increasingly popular to focus on metrics to assess the impact of their gifts.

Up and coming trends:

  • Among individual donors, there is an anecdotal resurgence in the idea of patronage to individual artists.  This includes direct patronage by high-level donors to individual artists and online platforms such as Patreon for lower-level donors.  Arts and philanthropy journalists have speculated that this is driven by the desire for impact, transparency, and personal experience.
  • The idea of “arts as entrepreneurship” and arts funding as “angel investors” is gaining more publicity and support among individual donors.  Examples include new pooled giving vehicles, gifts that focus on developing artists’ business skills and resources, and gifts that focus on the role of the arts in economic development. 
  • Artist-endowed foundations (AEFs) are an increasingly influential force in arts philanthropy.  The value of AEF assets more than doubled in the five-year period of 2011 through 2015, rising 120 percent to $7.66 billion from $3.48 billion. In comparison, assets grew 40 percent in that period at national foundations.
  • While foundations and individuals are increasingly funding art that closely engages with social problems, this has not happened with individuals across the higher ed landscape. However, this may be shifting–Yale University recently received a major gift to establish an arts program that examine social issues.

About the Author:

Amelia Aldred is a lead analyst on the prospect research team at the University of Chicago and the administrator of The Philanthropologist.  Amelia specializes in international and arts fundraising and has taught seminars on international philanthropy, industrial research, and internal communications at CASE (Council for the Advancement and Support of Education)  and APRA (Association of Professional Researchers for Advancement). For more information about Amelia’s nonprofit experience, click here.

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