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Work Smarter: Getting the most from the Pennsylvania Cultural Data Project

The deal was done. The cultural community could only brace itself for the administrative and financial fallout that would result from the expansion of sales tax to the nonprofit arts and culture sector. That was the message coming from legislators and lobbyists alike immediately following Governor Rendell's budget announcement on Friday, September 19, 2009.

At best, it was a demoralizing predicament – the state budget, which at varying points had included and excluded different prongs in the spectra of arts funding and was also 80 days overdue, hinged on an agreement to generate an additional $100 - $120 million in revenue by lifting the sales tax exemption on arts' ticket sales and memberships.

It was a predicament that needed facts – credible, correct, and quickly acquired facts – to illustrate to a group of decision-makers why their budget deal assumption was incorrect. Those facts came from the Pennsylvania Cultural Data Project (Pennsylvania CDP or PACDP) and were, to the community’s benefit, collected long before the announcement of the budget deal.

Over the past five years the collection of pertinent historical organizational data through the Pennsylvania CDP has been met with the resistance that faces any new management tool. Many have asked questions such as, "why should we devote time and resources to compiling this information?" and "how will this information lead to more informed decisions and actions internally and externally?"

Now that we have seen how its collective data builds sector reports such as the Cultural Alliance's Portfolio series and sector advocacy, it is critical that we systematically integrate the completion of the Pennsylvania CDP into our annual schedules in order to continue bringing its great benefits to our individual organizations and the field at large.