Primary tabs

Recap: #ArtsGrowthChat

The William Penn Foundation has done a great service to the arts and culture sector of Philadelphia with the release of Capitalization, Scale, and Investment: Does Growth Equal Gain?. The report raises important issues about the supply and demand balance of the sector, noting significant growth both in the number of large organizations (budgets $5 to $20 million) and in the sheer number of new nonprofits formed since 1990. The report documents that neither earned revenue nor philanthropy is growing at the same rate. Our sector is in a sustainability squeeze.

On Wednesday, February 18, we held the #ArtsGrowthChat on Twitter to keep the conversation going. We covered a lot of ground over a variety of the issues and questions raised by the William Penn research and our own 2014 Portfolio report, and got many thoughtful answers. We'll definitely be thinking of ways that we can keep the discussions and discovery going offline.

On measuring the success and worth of the arts and culture sector in ways other than financial growth, #ArtsGrowthChat participants brought up cross pollination; new media; and ROI of marketing. There were also a lot of comments on the difficulty of measuring these things, especially for smaller organizations. But overall there was strong interest in understanding better how arts transform the city, and near-universal agreement that community impact/engagement should be a key way we measure the success and worth of the sector.

In discussion around furthering audience engagement and working with changing audience consumption patterns, participants focused on what motivates people to attend (or not); the importance of engaging teens, millenials and elders; collaborating with other sectors; and embracing new media and technology as engagement tools.

When asked what would help organizations to examine their business model drivers and prospects for success, there was a strong call for collaboration and shared learning, particularly around business planning and digital technology. Clearly, people are hungry for opportunities to explore how an artist builds a business, and how nonprofits could learn from their peers as we all experiment with new approaches and seek closer relationships with our audiences.

When asked what funders could do to encourage organizations to realistically plan for sustainability,there were many comments about funding collaborations, pairing small organizations with big ones to transfer knowledge and share resources, and foundations sharing more about what they seek to fund and why.

We also asked what would motivate individual doors to more strongly support arts and culture. Some favored the monthly gift model to sustain organizations, while others talked about building relationships with donors.

Our last question, how organizations could have more realistic conversations with their supporters about appropriate measures of success, looped back to the metrics of success and how we tell the story of arts and culture.

This Twitter Chat is only a first step for the Cultural Alliance. On Twitter and on the street, we hear people talking, sharing ideas, being creative and undaunted. The issues raised by Does Growth Equal Gain? demand a lot more discussion, as our #ArtsGrowthChat participants agreed: 

The Cultural Alliance will continue to explore these issues on a sector-wide level, by framing the issues and experimenting with solutions; and also by creating opportunities for individual organizations and artists to find their best chance for success and a productive path forward. We will keep you posted on any plans to arrange meet-ups and roundtable discussions around particular sub-topics from #ArtsGrowthChat, too.

For more from #ArtsGrowthChat, check out the transcript on Storify and follow us on Twitter @philaculture.