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Roundtable Discussion on Philanthropy in the Performing Arts

October 17, 200517 October 2005

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This summary of discussions at the National Arts Centre in September 2002 provides insight into performing arts donors’ inspirations, needs and desires. The participants, some of whom are major donors to the performing arts, discussed how to promote the value of the arts, the need to invest in professional fundraising programs, and how to improve the environment for charitable donations to the arts in Canada.

Discussions about promoting the value of the arts highlighted the contribution of the arts to healthy communities and economies. Participants also pointed out the difficulty in promoting arts philanthropy given the perception among some that the arts are “frivolous”. In order to compete more effectively with charitable organizations in sectors such as health and education, participants indicated that more attention needs to be paid to recruiting and retaining donors. The need for professional development staff was stressed, and the high turnover rate of development staff in some arts organizations was lamented.

To improve the environment for charitable donations, participants stressed that “government should provide leadership in the area of arts philanthropy, by creating conditions that promote private donations and support the concept that the arts play an important role in a healthy society”.

Participants expressed the belief that management practices in arts organizations could be improved. Sound management, artistic vision and solid planning were all seen to translate into donor confidence in the effectiveness of their contributions. The need for organizational strategies regarding communications, planning and donor research was stressed throughout the discussions.

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