Fusing Arts, Culture and Social Change

Oct 23, 2011

National Committee
for Responsive Philanthropy


A Philanthropy
at Its Best® Report

Fusing Arts, Culture and Social Change:
High Impact Strategies for Philanthropy

Holly Sidford

"Funding Arts, Culture and Social Change outlines compelling demographic, aesthetic and economic reasons for foundations to rethink their grantmaking practices to stay current with changes in the cultural sector and to continue to be relevant to the evolving needs of our communities. Regardless of its history or primary philanthropic focus, every foundation investing in the arts can make fairness and equity core principles of its grantmaking. It can do so by intentionally prioritizing underserved communities in its philanthropy and by investing substantially in community organizing and civic engagement work in the arts and culture sector. By doing so, arts funders - individually and collectively - can make meaningful contributions toward a more inclusive and dynamic cultural sector, and a fairer, more democratic world."

This posting includes the following:

Table on Contents
Executive Summary Excerpt
Highlighted Foundation Program
Report Quotes
Press Coverage


Executive Summary
History and Context of Philanthropy in Arts and Culture
The Case for Change: Demographics

(Race and Ethnicity, Economics, Civic Participation, Education and Health)

The Case for Change: Artist and Aesthetics
The Case for Change: Cultural Economics

(Revenue Mix, Private Individuals, Private Funding)

Pathways Forward
Appendix A: Making Change Happen


"Every year, approximately 11 percent of foundation giving — about $2.3 billion in 2009 — is awarded to nonprofit arts and cultural institutions. The distribution of these funds is demonstrably out of balance with our evolving cultural landscape and with the changing demographics of our communities. Current arts grantmaking disregards large segments of cultural practice, and by doing so, it disregards large segments of our society.

"Much of this work is being done at the grassroots and community levels by artists and relatively small cultural organizations. Yet, the majority of arts funding supports large organizations with budgets greater than $5 million. Such organizations, which comprise less than 2 percent of the universe of arts and cultural nonprofits, receive more than half of the sector's total revenue. These institutions focus primarily on Western European forms, and their programs serve audiences that are predominantly white and upper income. Onl 10 percent of grant dollars made with a primary or secondary purpose of supporting the arts explicitly benefit underserved communities, including lower income populations, communities of color and other disadvantaged roups. And less than 4 percent focus on advancing society justice goals.

"This [40-page] report is a call for the funders to reflect on their policies and practices in light of demographic, aesthetic and economic trends. It is also an invitation to engage in a fresh field-wide conversation about the purpose and relevance of philantrophy in the arts today. We hope the result of this reflection and discussion will be a more inclusive and dynamic cultural sector and, through the arts, a more equitable, fair and democratic world."

The CrossCurrents Foundation pursues social, environmental and economic justice by supporting projects in three categories: 1) artists using their work as social commentary; 2) building bridges between artists and organizations promoting equity; and 3) building the field of art and social justice.

The Culture for Change Project supports ongoing collaboration among artists, youth workers and young people, using the arts to build leadership and self-esteem among children and teens of all races and ethnicities and engage them in addressing social change.

The Fund for Artists Matching Commissions Program offers grants of up to $10,000 for the creation of new work, and requires that funds be matched by contributions from individual donors.

The Heinz Endowments recently introduced a new program - Advancing Black Arts - which has four components: 1) operating support for core African American organizations with clear goals for artistic, management and governance; 2) fellowships for African American artists; 3) project grants for organizations based in the African diaspora's tradition; and 4) field-building initiatives that enhance the visibility, artistic vibrancy and sustainability of the community of Black arts.

PLACE Initiative supports arts-based civic engagement projects that address contested and complex social issues in the community.

Arts and culture funders who have signed NCRP's Philanthropy Promise:

The California Endowment
Ford Foundation
The McKnight Foundation
Meyer Memorial Trust
Open Society Foundations
Silicon Valley Community Foundation
The Wallace Foundation

"It is a problem because it means that - in the arts - philanthropy is using its tax-exempt status primarily to benefit wealthier, more privileged institutions and populations." (page 4)

"'We all need to get more comfortable with being uncomfortable and keep focused on strengthening deliberative democracy.' Roberto Bedoya, Executive Director, Tucson Pima Arts Council" (page 5)

"Just 10 percent of arts and culture grant dollars are classified as benefitting one of the 11 vulnerable populations included in NCRP's analysis warrants field-wide discussion and calls out for change." (page 10)

"For the first time in our history, the majority of foreign-born residents - nearly 80 percents - now come from Asia and Latin America rather than Europe." (page 12)

"Diversity is the cultural norms of our nation today, and we need to affirmatively validate the entire spectrum if we are to see and understand our evolving nation clearly." (page 13)

"'We need to look at this as culture not arts. We need more collective philanthropy - where many diferent funders, and different programs within one foundation work together to advance the health of a community or an organization.' Lori Pourier, President, First Peoples Fund and Chair, Grantmakers in the Arts, Indigenous Resource Network" (page 13)

"To stay abreast of evolving contemporary arts practice and expand the arts' positive role in the lives of disadvantaged groups, funders must stay on topy of evolving definitions of 'art' and 'artists' and embrace work that has different sources, goals and means, and sites of distribution. They also may need to develop some new metrics of impact." (page 16)

"Artists constitute a marginalized population - they are relatively well-educated but poorly paid and, in general, not validated by public opinion or professional status." (page 16)

"A national poll by Princeton Survey Research Associates international revealed that 90 percent of American adults value art in their lives, but only 27 percent believe artists contribute a lot to the good of society." (page 16)

"Art is an end in itself, but it also is a powerful means to achieve other goals, including effective education, community health and economic development, as well as greater political equity." (page 18)

"The top 1 percent have the best houses, the best educations, the best doctors and the best lifestyles, but there is one thing that money doesn't seem to have bought: an understanding that their fate is bound up with how the other 99 percent live. Joseph E. Stiglitz, 'Of the 1%, By the 1%, For the 1%,' Vanity Fair, May 2011" (page 23)

"The asymmetry disadvantages all of us by restricting the types of cultural expressions we experience, and thus our understanding of what our culture is becoming." (page 27)

"We have made a science of developing nonprofit arts institutions but we are still relative neophytes in understanding the role of the arts in catalyzing individual and community capacity, and sustaining individual and community health." (pages 27-28)

Arts Funding Doesn't Show Diversity (Associated Press)
Arts Funding Doesn't Show Diversity, Report Finds (FundRaising Success)
Arts Funding Not Keeping Pace with Demographic and Cultural Changes (The Nonprofit Quarterly)
Arts Giving Is Up, But Hold the Applause (NPR)
New Formula: Arts Philanthropy Goes Grassroots (Santa Fe Reporter)
Equity in Arts Funding: We're not there yet. We're not even close. (Museum 2.0)
Funding Scarce For Minority Arts Groups (WAMU 88.5)
Lack of Diversity in Arts Giving Criticized in New Study (Chronicle of Philanthropy)
Is Art Only For The Elite? (KPCC, 89.3)
Occupy the Concert Hall? (WQXR)
Occupy Wall Street and Arts Face Similar Themes (Courier-Journal)
On Funding for the Arts in the United States (National Review Online)
Philanthropy watchdog's report notes 'imbalance' in arts funding (The Washington Post)
Report Finds Most Foundation-Based Arts Funding Benefits Only Wealthy, White Audiences  (Mediabistro)

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Sub Categories

DIVERSITY: Social Policy
DIVERSITY: Diversity and the Arts
DIVERSITY: Board Leadership
DIVERSITY: African American / Black Community
DIVERSITY: Latino / Hispanic
DIVERSITY: Asian American
DIVERSITY: American Indian
DIVERSITY: Native Hawaiian / Pacific Islander
DIVERSITY: Generations
DIVERSITY: Development / Fundraising
DIVERSITY: Political Views
DIVERSITY: Education
DIVERSITY: Socio-Economic Status
DIVERSITY: White/Caucasian


diversity   artists