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News & Press: Member Insights

Giving To The Arts – What Goes Down, Must Come Up?

Wednesday, August 20, 2014  

By David H. King, President & CEO, Alexander Haas, Inc.

You know the saying that what goes up must come down. This year, we’ve learned the inverse is true when it comes to giving to the arts.

What has been down is now coming up!

The 2013 Giving USA results show an increase of 7.8 percent, and that’s not even the best part. In 2007, giving to the arts hit an all-time high of $16.52 billion, which has now been surpassed with 2013’s total of $16.66 billion.

As many of you may know, recessions are historically harsh on fundraising for the arts sector. When donors have less discretionary income to give and there is more demand for basic human needs, giving to human services organizations increases. Subsequently, attention and resources are diverted from organizations like museums and symphonies, in order to focus on providing food, shelter, clothing, etc., for those in need.

A drastic example of this happened in 1982, when giving to the arts was cut by more than half of the previous year. Your eyes are not deceiving you – more than HALF. 59.9 percent, to be precise.

Don’t get me wrong, over $3.4 billion lost in arts giving was very painful, but in light of that number, 2008’s 20.7 percent decline doesn’t seem quite as bad anymore.

So while giving to the arts is one of the hardest sectors hit, it’s usually one of the fastest to recover post-recession. Thankfully, the most recent recession has proved to be no different.

Behind education and public/society benefit, the arts are the third largest benefactor of an increase in any sector of giving. While it did take a little longer to get back up than most of us would have liked, compared to other areas of giving, the arts are doing just fine.

For example, the religious sector still lags below its all-time high by nearly 1 billion dollars, and fell compared to last year’s giving.


As you can see in the chart above, giving to the arts is on a strong trajectory, and if the momentum stays with us, the future is bright.

I’m no physicist, but from what I can see, what went down came back up!

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