Giving: Arts and Culture

Posted by Mr. Timothy J. McClimon, Dec 09, 2013 0 comments

Tim McClimon Tim McClimon

There are lots of good reasons to support arts and culture organizations in your community: encouraging creativity, fostering innovation, enhancing the quality of life, beautifying our parks and public spaces, educating young people and audiences, and just for pure enjoyment and personal fulfillment – to name a few. I mean, who among us hasn't enjoyed listening to great music in a concert hall, watching spectacular dance on stage, engaging with provocative actors in a theater or visiting a world-class art museum?

But another reason to support the arts is the economic impact that arts and culture organizations have in their local communities and the jobs they create.

According to a recent study of 182 communities by Americans for the Arts (Arts & Economic Prosperity IV), the nation's nonprofit arts industry generated over $135 billion in economic activity nationally in 2010 (for-profit arts and entertainment activity was excluded from this study). $61 billion of this activity was generated directly by the country's nonprofit arts and culture organizations and $74 billion was generated in event-related expenditures by their audience members.

This economic activity supports over 4 million full-time jobs and it generates over $22 billion in revenue for local, state and federal governments every year – a yield well beyond the $4 billion that is allocated to support arts organizations by governments annually.

According to the report, arts and culture organizations are resilient and entrepreneurial businesses. They employ people locally, purchase goods and services within their communities, and promote their communities as tourist destinations and great places to live.

Additionally, when patrons attend events, they often pay for parking or transportation, eat at local restaurants, shop in retail stores, have dessert on the way home, pay a babysitter or stay in local hotels. Based on over 150,000 audience surveys, the typical arts attendee spends almost $25 per person, per event, beyond the cost of admission – and this number is much greater in metropolitan areas.

Data also shows that non-local attendees (tourists and visitors) spend twice as much as local attendees – demonstrating that when a community attracts cultural tourists, it generates significant economic rewards for the community.

The report cites three reasons why the study focuses strictly on the nonprofit arts and culture sector:

  • The findings dispel the myth that the nonprofit arts and culture sector is an economic "black hole" and provide proof that when people, corporations, foundations and governments support the nonprofit arts, they are also supporting economic and community development;
  • Because nonprofit arts associations are often the recipient of public funding, the availability of valid and accurate economic data about the impact of the sector is critical; and
  • The information necessary to complete an economic impact study is more easily obtained from the nonprofit sector than from the for-profit sector since nonprofit sector data is treated as public information and available through IRS Form 990 filings.

American Express has a long history of supporting arts and culture organizations around the world. We support the preservation and restoration of important works of arts and architecture through our Historic Preservation program and our partnerships with the National Trust for Historic Preservation and the World Monuments Fund. We support the development of emerging leaders in the sector through our Leadership program and our globally recognized American Express Leadership Academy. And, we assist the development of capacity of nonprofit arts organizations to accept and utilize volunteers and board members through our Community Service program.

We also invest in nonprofit arts organizations through Special Projects, like our support of the Lincoln Center Festival, the Next Wave Festival at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, and the River to River Festival, as well as being corporate members of over 30 museums of art and culture in major employee locations such as New York and London, and supporters of local institutions in places like Phoenix, Salt Lake City and Ft. Lauderdale, Florida.

So, this year when contemplating your year-end gifts, don't forget arts and culture organizations in your communities. They are drivers of economic activity and employers of significant numbers of people as well as being the creative force behind the quality of life in places where you call home. They might also be the spark that distinguishes your community from others in your region or state.

What do you think about the impact of arts and culture organizations in your community? Please let us know in the comments!

This blog post was originally published on Tim McClimon's blog, Corporate Responsibility: CSR Now!

Please login to post comments.