The Engagement Revolution

The Engagement Revolution

To ensure success, funding in support of nonprofit arts organizations' efforts to engage a broader audience — especially ethnically diverse or low-income audiences — should include investments in organizational infrastructure, leadership development, and learning communities, as well as a commitment to collaborations that address system-level needs, an evaluation of the James Irvine Foundation's New California Arts Fund finds. Based on data collected from the ten recipients of three-year grants totaling $8.9 million awarded in 2013, the report, The Engagement Revolution (71 pages, PDF), identified five main strategies used to deepen audience engagement — focusing on culturally specific content; emphasizing socially or politically relevant content; making space for artists of color; experimenting with the experience or format used to present the content; and incorporating community voices directly into program development. The evaluation also found that grantee-partners tended to go through four stages — testing the waters with one or more engagement–oriented programs; building and protecting such programming as a valued component; integrating engagement into core programming; and embracing it as a central strategy and organizational identity.