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Philadelphia's Cultural Sector Rebounding from the Recession

The regional cultural sector shows signs of recovery from the Great Recession. In a survey of cultural organizations conducted this spring by the Cultural Alliance, more organizations reported higher income, both contributed and earned, than in 2010, when the survey was last conducted. Four out of five groups also reported expansions in programming or plans to increase programming in the near future.

“This recovery is a testament both to how organizations have restructured and how Philadelphians have placed a high value on culture in their communities,” said Tom Kaiden, Cultural Alliance President. “These are positive indicators not just for cultural groups but for the region as a whole.”

These indicators support the Cultural Alliance’s report from last year, Portfolio, which documented an increase in attendance, subscriptions and individual giving at cultural groups during the recession (FY07-FY09). It indicates that those indicators are likely to remain strong during the recovery. 

Key findings of the latest TempCheck survey include: 

Things are getting better

  • A higher percentage of cultural organizations report increases in both Single Ticket Sales and Subscriptions & Memberships in March 2012 compared to October 2010 – 43% report increasing Single Ticket Sales (compared to 33% in 2010) and 32% report increased Subscriptions & Memberships (compared to 20% in 2010).
  • Compared to 2010, a higher percentage of cultural organizations report increases in Foundation Support (46% vs. 23%), Corporate Support (24% vs. 13%) and Individual Giving (51% vs. 38%). Significant support by individuals had been previously noted as helping to offset a drop-off in institutional support during the recession (see 2011 Portfolio).
  • A higher percentage of organizations report that they have increased programming within the last 12 months (40% in 2012 vs. 35% in 2010) or plan to do so within the next 12 months (38% in 2012 vs. 29% in 2010).

Individual patrons AGAIN lead the way, investments helping too

  • 92% of organizations report stable or increased Individual Giving. More than half (51%) report increased Individual Giving.
  • Strong individual support is consistent for organizations of all sizes, with organizations from $25,000 to $10,000,0000 Annual Budgets all reporting over 80% growth or stability in Individual Giving.
  • 92% of organizations also report stable or increased Investment Income, with the majority of organizations (57%) reporting stable income. 

Fewer layoffs, some hiring

  • A lower percentage of organizations report reducing staff size or shrinking hours for staff in the last 12 months in 2012 than in 2010 (26% vs. 19%).
  • 33% of organizations report that they either have restored cut staff positions or are increasing staff in 2012 (question not asked in 2010). 

Confidence is improving, BUT finances remain fragile

  • 40% of cultural leaders say things will get better (up from 32% in 2010). 
  • Over one-third of organizations report declines in Government Support (36%). While this is lower than in 2010 (36% vs. 49%), this is the area where the highest percentage of organizations report declining support.
  • Fewer organizations report that they expect a deficit at the end of their current Fiscal Year (23% vs. 32% in 2010).
  • Inadequate capitalization is a growing risk, as the recession drained emergency reserves.  FEWER organizations report that they have cash on hand equivalent to at least 6 months of expenses in 2012 than 2010 (15% vs. 25%).

These results reflect the experience of 102 organizations representing a wide range of budget sizes and disciplines that responded to a questionnaire assessing the effects of the economy on their fundraising, programming and other activities. The Cultural Alliance fields TempCheck annually to measure shifts over time. The survey will next be administered in spring 2013. While the total groups participating in the 2010 and 2012 survey are not identical, overall respondents in both surveys were consistent in terms of discipline and budget.

The public can learn more about the Cultural Alliance’s research and advocacy efforts by signing up to receive advocacy alerts from the Cultural Alliance’s Online Action Center at

For more information about the results, please contact John McInerney, Vice President of Marketing and Communications, at 215-399-3515 or

About the Greater Philadelphia Cultural Alliance

The mission of the Greater Philadelphia Cultural Alliance is to lead, strengthen and give voice to a diverse cultural sector that is making Philadelphia a world-class region to live, work and play. The Cultural Alliance believes that the Philadelphia region grows stronger and more vibrant by growing its arts and culture. Representing more than 400 member institutions, with more than 9,000 employees and 24,000 volunteers, the Cultural Alliance is able to speak as one collective voice for the region’s cultural community.