PMA Consulting, LLC

The Arts and Big Business Don’t Seem to Mix

The arts seem to be a victim of an economic slide that is leading to fewer U.S. companies making philanthropic contributions. However, those companies that continued their support are giving a slightly bigger share of their charitable dollars to the arts, a new survey says.

View the Study

The Triennial Survey of Business Support for the Arts report from The Business Committee for the Arts, a division of Americans for the Arts says arts giving fell from large businesses, while support from small and mid-size businesses grew.

Contribution Numbers

  • The number of businesses providing charitable support for the arts fell to 28 percent in 2009 from 43 percent in 2006.
  • The share of 600 businesses surveyed that gave to any charitable cause fell to 52 percent from 70 percent.
  • The arts received 15 percent of total charitable contributions in 2009, up from 13 percent in 2009.

Why Businesses Give

  • 37 percent of businesses support arts groups because of ties to corporate goals
  • 67 percent say they picked arts groups that provide opportunities for corporate recognition.
  • 74 percent of companies say profitability was the most important factor they considered.
  • 63 percent say they would boost their arts giving or begin supporting the arts if their contribution would have a direct impact on their bottom line.

PMA touched on the corporate “bottom line” factor in a previous post, Has Corporate Philanthropy Changed?

Size Matters

  • From 2006 to 2009, the median gift from large businesses fell to $15,500 from $25,000.
  • Gifts from small businesses grew to $700 from $500. 
  • Gifts from mid-size businesses grew to $2,250 from $2,000.

Overall, small and mid-size businesses account for 93 percent of arts dollars, while large businesses account for seven percent.

Among all business (support/non-supporters of the arts), 79 percent agree arts giving can benefit them by increasing name recognition, and 74 percent agree arts can benefit them by offering networking opportunities and the potential to develop new business.

New ideas like USA Projects, as discussed in an earlier post, could be the wave of the future for the arts – especially if the small and mid-size businesses follow the trend of big business and start giving less.