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National Center for Arts Research: Volume II Report

September 23, 201523 September 2015

Arts statistics and management

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This report provides “evidence-based insights into the health of U.S. arts and cultural organizations”, based on three main data sources: charitable organizations’ tax forms, the Cultural Data Project, and the Theatre Communications Group. These sources contain information on more than 55,000 arts and cultural organizations.

The report is very detailed, with data related to 128 indices and in-depth reporting on 26 indices. Some interesting facts and benchmarks regarding American arts and culture organizations in 2012 (the most recent data year) include:

  • Unrestricted contributed funds, which include private and public sector contributions, represent 53% of organizations’ cash expenses, with earned income account for 48%. (These percentages add up to more than 100% of expenses because of a slight operating surplus for the organizations, before depreciation.)
  • “The average organization brought in nearly $8 in [private and public] contributed support for every dollar spent on fundraising.”
  • Direct program-related expenses account for two-thirds of organizations’ expenditures.
  • Organizations earned an average of $21.35 in program-related revenues for each in-person attendee, while marketing expenses, including relevant personnel costs, were $4.20 for each attendee.
  • On average, organizations have 17 months of available cash, including short-term investments.
  • Organizations have an average of 2.8 months of working capital (the difference between unrestricted current assets and unrestricted current liabilities).
  • Organizations have an average of 11 full-time employees. Total in-person attendance represents 3,828 people per full-time employee.
  • For each organization, in-person attendance represents, on average, 2.9% of the local population. When virtual visits are included, the “total touch points” represent 10.3% of the local population.

The above statistics are analyzed by budget size (small, medium, and large, with cut-off points that vary by sector) as well as for 11 cultural sectors. Some interesting findings for the largest groups of respondents follow:

  • Community-based, visual arts, and multi-purpose organizations (representing 22% of all organizations reporting data in 2012) have the highest contributed support (private and public sectors combined) as a percentage of total expenses. These organizations also have the highest return on fundraising and the most working capital.
  • Theatre groups (20% of all organizations) are in the mid-range of sectors for most indicators.
  • Music organizations (excluding orchestras and operas, representing 17% of all organizations) have the lowest return on fundraising and “the second lowest expenses per attendee”.
  • Dance groups (9% of all organizations) have “the second lowest number of months of available capital” but are in the mid-range of sectors for most other indicators.
  • Arts education organizations (8% of all organizations) have the highest earned revenues (relative to total expenses) as well as the highest return on marketing.

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