How to Present Arts & Economic Impact Data to Corporate Funders
Arts & Economic Prosperity IV is another seminal piece of research by the Americans for the Arts staff led by Randy Cohen. (Okay, so I am biased). But, passion for the arts runs throughout our organization. I hope to provide insight into how AEP IV might be used with corporate funding sources.
How to Use AEP IV with Corporate Funders: What Do the Numbers Mean?
It is probably a revelation to most corporate funders that the arts & culture industry generates $135.2 billion in economic activity, supports 4.1 million jobs, and generates an aggregate $22.3 billion in government revenue.
Some corporate funders may not be looking at how arts & culture within their community support their own business revenues or government revenues with expenditures on snacks and refreshments (think restaurants and restaurant suppliers), lodging (resorts or hospitality industries), transportation (buses/taxis), or retail establishments with shopping from clothing to gifts for home.
Corporate funders need to be shown the light. And if it is anything like corporations I have worked for, what turns the light on in corporations are numbers and quantitative data. Why?
Whoever you have approached with the data needs to deliver it to someone else, who will then deliver it to another layer of management, and so on before a decision is made. That includes the CEO.
But, may I clarify a point about “corporate funders?” It is no longer just a decision made in the executive suite with the CEO or CFO of the company. A “corporate funder” decision-maker might be found within the sales and marketing, human resources, or corporate communications departments. The numbers and the rationale for funding arts organizations based on the data needs to resonate with all of these people.
The sales and marketing department is looking to gain more clients and revenue and brand the image of their company; the human resources department is seeking to form strategic partnerships with community organizations who can provide equal benefits across their entire company which may be in multiple locations; and the corporate communications person (potentially a gatekeeper to the CEO) needs to maintain a strong image for the company and executive suite.
If one takes the AEP IV research and discovers the best way to deliver the information to multiple persons within a corporation and deliver a message of why it is important to them—your organization has increased its chances of gaining the funding you seek.
What Challenges Might You Face? What is the Best Way to Deliver the Research?
In my own company, I want to understand the best and most effective way the person I want to target receives the research. Are they partial to e-mail? Snail mail? Do they want bullet points, the summary, or the whole report?
It's best to ask and find out before sending the information and having an opportunity wasted. Sometimes multiple forms of distribution are required (Sometimes over many months.)
If the challenge is that the funder is not partial to receiving the AEP IV data, or if they have claimed to not be an arts funder, don’t stop at that obstacle. I like to point out all the ways their company is a tacit user of the arts. Do they have a lobby with visual arts? Do they support other organizations that are part of the “Arts AND” message that Bob Lynch (President and CEO of Americans for the Arts) is speaking about in the field?
Again, overcome the objections and obstacles with data and information that shows you have researched their own organization.
AEP IV can offer the most recalcitrant corporation information and data that supports the arts as a vital and necessary part of our society. Armed with AEP IV, you and your organization will have a much better opportunity to begin the conversation.
And remember, stay positive. Often “No” only means “No, not now.”