Despite greater awareness of the problem, the distribution of arts funding continues to become less equitable.
Not Just Money: Equity Issues in Cultural Philanthropy is a 2017 research study on equity issues in arts funding in the U.S., supported by funding from the Surdna Foundation. It continues our examination of this topic, which started with our report, Fusing Art, Culture and Social Change, published in 2011 by the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy.
This new study finds that despite important efforts by many leading foundations, funding overall has gotten less equitable, not more, over the past five years. Cultural philanthropy is not effectively — or equitably — supporting our country’s evolving cultural landscape.
Not Just Money explores inequitable patterns in funding distribution at national and local levels; the lack of diversity among decision-makers (arts foundation staff and boards, individual donors and cultural institution leadership); and distinct challenges faced by organizations of color and those serving low-income communities in both urban and rural communities. It concludes with ideas how to move toward a new era of more equitable and inclusive cultural philanthropy.
We hope that the data in Not Just Money will give arts funders and cultural leaders new incentives to undertake bolder, and more collaborative efforts to change the policies and practices that maintain an unfair status quo.
Additional resources, including downloadable graphics and specific city profiles, are available on the project website notjustmoney.us. The report is also available on Medium, where you can add your comments and thoughts.
Arts foundations and nonprofit leaders are increasingly aware of diversity and equity issues in the nonprofit cultural sector. However, despite this awareness, arts funding is getting less equitable, not more. Just 2 percent of all cultural institutions receive nearly 60 percent of all contributed revenue – up 5 percent over a decade. Funding inequities are systemic and local patterns mirror national ones.
There is a significant lack of diversity among cultural philanthropy leaders in philanthropy and large cultural institutions, most of whom are white. This influences funding policies and distributions. For example, in 2015, only 10 percent of arts and culture foundations had established goals or guidelines for grantmaking to serve people of color.
Achieving greater fairness will take greater understanding of the systemic nature of the problems as well as strategic, persistent effort to unseat these tenaciously rooted forces. There are at least three specific things arts funders can do to help drive change towards a more inclusive philanthropy:
- Set explicit goals for making policies and practices more equitable, and plans to reach them
- Engage wealthy individual donors, the fastest growing source of nonprofit revenue, in addressing equity with their funding
- Commit to collaborative action to achieve change in and for specific local communities
We are in a pivotal moment as a society, when greater recognition and meaningful support for a wider spectrum of creative voices and cultural traditions can stimulate a new burst of artistic energy, strengthen the role of the arts in diverse communities, and help our country address and heal some of its pronounced divisions. However, this report shows that funding in the cultural sector is getting less equitable – a larger percentage is going to large, urban fine arts institutions, and smaller portion to smaller, community based, culturally specific and rural arts organizations.
To change this trend, we must first acknowledge the origins of the nonprofit arts sector, which sprung from Western European cultural values and fine arts traditions, and was structured to preserve them. We must also understand larger social and economic systems within which the nonprofit cultural system operates and which inform its behaviors – structural racism, class and geographic bias, and the increasing concentration of wealth in the hands of a very few.
We hope this research contributes to ongoing conversations about these issues and, more importantly, that it sparks new resolution to act.