By One Measure, Giving To The Arts Has Increased Since '89

Posted: December 06, 1995

Despite emergency belt-tightening at cultural organizations throughout the area, despite some well-publicized shutdowns, despite the widely held belief that funds are harder and harder to come by, a new survey indicates that annual philanthropic giving to the arts has increased by 20 percent over six years.

The survey, conducted by Delaware Valley Grantmakers, a Philadelphia-based service organization, covers 11 corporations and 17 foundations, including such heavy givers as the Pew Charitable Trusts, the William Penn Foundation, the Philadelphia Foundation, CoreStates Financial Corp., IBM and PNC Bank.

"We've been dealing with a very strong perception on the part of the cultural community that grantmaking to arts and culture was going down, and the perception of the funders was that that was not the case at all," said Marian Godfrey, head of cultural programs at Pew and chair of the grantmakers' arts and culture group. "We embarked on this study to get a look at what the data could really tell us and how we could do a better job of communicating that data to our constituencies."

Adjusted for inflation, area foundations and companies in the survey contributed a total of $21 million to arts and culture in 1989 and $25.2 million in 1994, an increase of 20 percent. From year to year, however, the level of giving fluctuated considerably.

While suggestive, the study does not purport to measure all giving to arts and culture in the Philadelphia region, only the money given by a significant proportion of the 65-member grantmaker group. Some major arts contributors, such as Elf Atochem North America Inc., which gave $1 million to the Wilma Theater last year, are not members of the organization. Other major arts givers, such as Aramark Corp., did not participate in the survey.

Moreover, a substantial part of the arts giving went to organizations outside of the Philadelphia area.

Cathryn Coate, executive director of the Greater Philadelphia Cultural Alliance, a service organization, said the survey could help provide a basis for analysis of patterns in giving.

"This kind of study should be done on a regular basis - that's the only way you can build up an understanding of the trends," she said.

The study follows a national survey of corporate giving to the arts conducted by the Business Committee for the Arts in New York. That survey reported that businesses gave a record $875 million to the arts in 1994, up

from $518 million in 1991. (The figures have not been adjusted for inflation.)

This reported 69 percent surge was greeted by skepticism at arts organizations across the country and in Philadelphia. At a recent informal gathering of about a dozen arts administrators here, none said they had experienced a significant increase in corporate giving in recent years.

The local grantmakers survey would seem to back that up. It reports virtually flat giving by the participating corporations between 1989, when businesses gave $3.6 million to the arts, and 1994, when they gave $3.7 million.

A separate section of the grantmakers survey, based on data from different companies and foundations, seeks to analyze Philadelphia-area giving trends over time. It shows that city-based arts organizations receive most of the arts funding in the area, but it also shows that a substantial amount of arts funding leaves Southeastern Pennsylvania for organizations based elsewhere.

From 1991 to 1994, city-based groups received between 65 percent and 75 percent of arts giving. Between 15 percent and 31 percent of total funding left the region. (Chester, Delaware, Montgomery and Bucks Counties combined received no more than 4 percent in any given year.)

Yet another section of the survey seeks to measure what kinds of activities grantmakers are funding. This section, based on information provided by 14 corporations and 23 foundations here and across the country, shows funding for general operations rising, in dollars adjusted for inflation, from $3.8 million in 1991 to $5.7 million in 1994, or 49 percent. Support for programs and specific projects went from $13.6 million in 1991 to $8.7 million in 1994, a decline of 36 percent.

Capital giving - funds for construction of new buildings, additions and the like - soared from $6.2 million in 1991 to $9.8 million in 1994, an increase of 59 percent.

Why the big capital increase?

"We think it just spikes up in '94 because of the confluence of a couple of major grants," said Pew's Godfrey. "I think there is some Avenue of the Arts stuff. . . . Part of that (spike) would be accounted for by the Pew Trusts' $5 million grant to the Academy of Music renovation."

The data also suggest that funders are increasing their giving to general operations - support that helps pay utility bills, buy office stationery, and cover other essential, completely unglamorous day-to-day expenses. Among arts groups, on the other hand, there is a widely held belief, supported by other studies, that general funding is flat at best.

"For us that raises the issue of how . . . you can account for that perception," wondered Godfrey. "Is it that the level of need is increasing beyond the ability of arts grantmakers to keep up with it? Or is it that the fluctuations (in funding levels from year to year) make it difficult for grantees to manage their expectations? And can more communication between grantees and grantmakers solve that to some degree?"

Coate, of the Greater Philadelphia Cultural Alliance, which is finishing its own funding study, has no doubt that operating money is the single greatest need of arts groups in the Philadelphia area.

"I'd like to see a significant increase in operating support because that's the area where cultural organizations in this region are experiencing problems," she said. "I'd like to see more support for what cultural organizations define as their needs - as opposed to what foundations tend to define as needs, which is usually how programs and projects are funded."

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