Arts and Cultural Organizations: In It for the Long Haul

Arts and Cultural Organizations: In It for the Long Haul

A report from SMU Data Arts and TRG Arts estimates the net negative impact of COVID-19 on U.S. arts and cultural organizations between March 2020 and February 2021 at $6.8 billion, or the equivalent of 26 percent of expenses for the average arts organization over a calendar year. The report, Arts and Cultural Organizations: In It for the Long Haul (HTML or PDF, 14 pages), estimates that the approximately thirty-five thousand organizations with budgets of more than $50,000 will lose revenue totaling $12.4 billion as a result of the public health emergency — $5.4 billion in earned income, $5.2 billion in contributed revenue, and $1.8 billion in earned and investment income; will cut expenses by $5.6 billion, including $3.9 billion in compensation reductions and cuts totaling $1.7 billion to non-personnel expenses; and will see a $126 million increase in their COVID-related expenses. To help arts nonprofits survive the crisis and build resilience for the future, the report suggests that organizations consider four questions: "What might next year look like?"; "What is the source of our strength?"; "How will we manage our people and revenue propositions to confront the new reality?" and "When our doors reopen, whom will we gather?" Ensuring meaningful post-pandemic sustainability, the report argues, requires having a handle on fixed costs, adequate cash reserves, solid community ties, and a good deal of relational capital; responding to community needs with innovation; engaging artists, staff, and board members in planning, experimentation, and innovating; and effectively communicating the role the organization seeks to play in the local community.