By Rebekah Seder, Program Manager
Without a doubt, one of the greatest aspects of our region is the rich and diverse nonprofit arts sector. A recent discussion among WRAG members who fund in the arts and humanities sphere really drove this home. But, as vibrant as this sector is, and as much as it contributes to our quality of life, the recession has had a significant impact on the philanthropic dollars flowing to these organizations.
Funders in our community are committed to supporting, and advocating for the sector, and there were several ideas that came out of this conversation that we thought were worth sharing.
Find creative ways to leverage funding: In our region there is great wealth, and a great number of small, locally focused nonprofit arts organizations. Being home to some of the country’s premier cultural institutions, however, can make it hard for local groups to compete for philanthropic dollars. Locally- focused funders can find ways to leverage their own grantmaking by helping their grantees build relationships in the donor community, or by getting creative in their grantmaking with strategies like matching grants that encourage organizations to seek individual donations.
Make the economic case: It’s a given in the urban planning field that a vibrant arts scene can help spur economic growth and neighborhood revitalization. Advocates and funders of the arts need to hammer this idea home, especially to policymakers controlling government purse strings. With the rapid growth and expansion of the Cultural Data Project – the D.C. version of which a number of WRAG members helped launch in 2011 – researchers have access to a vast trove of data to help advocates make the case for greater arts funding.
Work at the intersections: While funding art “for arts sake” is always important, taking a cross-sector approach can help break down silos between different kinds of funders. Recent research has highlighted the benefits of incorporating the arts into health programs and services for older adults. Likewise, arts education is essential for all young people, and there are any number of innovative programs that engage at-risk youth through the arts. Highlighting the impact of the arts and humanities on the full spectrum of life can help bring different, and perhaps unexpected, funders to the table.
A small group of WRAG members plan to meet to strategize ways to more deeply engage the funding community around the arts and humanities in our region. WRAG members: if you’re interested in getting involved in this effort, contact Rebekah Seder.