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Volunteers and Donors in the Cultural Sector in Canada

January 11, 200711 January 2007

Volunteers & donors / Nonprofit sector information

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This presentation, conducted by Kelly Hill and presented by Culture Montreal, provides a portrait of individual participation in arts and culture organizations. The English report refers to Canadian data related to volunteers and individual donors in the arts and culture, while the French report is the original presentation, which highlighted the situation in Quebec.

The presentation notes that Canadian arts and culture organizations rely on volunteers to fulfill many roles. Financial support is also important: support from individuals, corporations and foundations accounts for about one-fifth of the operating revenues of performing arts organizations and about one-ninth of the operating revenues of heritage organizations. In addition, individual giving is a large component of capital fundraising campaigns. A recent Ontario survey showed that art galleries raised more than half of their capital funding from private sources.

After outlining key data on volunteers and donors from recent Hill Strategies Research reports, the presentation provides insights in the motivations and perceptions of volunteers and donors. Donors are motivated by the desire to contribute to their community, by the fact that they have been personally touched by the cause, by compassion for those in need, and by the desire to support a cause in which they personally believe. In addition to the desire to contribute to their community and having been personally touched by the cause, volunteers also want to have an opportunity to use their skills and interests.

The presentation notes that perception of value is the key condition for volunteers and donors. Other important conditions for volunteer and donor support include:

  • potential volunteers or donors must perceive a need;
  • they must know that organizations make effective use of their money or time;
  • cultural organizations must ask individuals to give (in a manner that is considered appropriate);
  • cultural organizations must offer a positive experience.
  • The presentation recognizes that cultural organizations face barriers to increasing volunteer and donor support, including the time, money and expertise to recruit volunteers and donors, to train volunteers, and to ensure that volunteers and donors are appreciated. In addition, there is very strong competition from other non-profit organizations.

    The presentation also recognizes that the cultural sector has particular strengths and opportunities in developing volunteers and donors. Many individuals like to be in contact with artists, to be in contact with art, and to feel like they are part of the arts community.

    The presentation highlights the potential actions proposed by Culture Montreal to increase the number of volunteers and donors, including: increasing the visibility of arts and culture organizations with potential volunteers and donors; more and better communication with potential volunteers and donors; developing philanthropic expertise among cultural organizations; increasing awareness of the real costs of creating and presenting art; and ensuring current volunteers and donors feel appreciated and valued.

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