Arts Organizations Missing Out on Millennials' Data-Focused Giving

With millennials increasingly focused on data-driven giving and "effective altruism," established arts and cultural institutions and smaller arts groups alike are struggling to figure out their appeal to a new generation of young, wealthy donors, the Seattle Times reports.

For the new generation of mostly tech-industry philanthropists who demand metrics for how each dollar is spent and the impact those dollars create, arts and culture has not been a high-priority area, leaving museums, orchestras, and local arts groups scrambling to figure out how to compete with statistics detailing the number of children saved or impoverished villages in Africa helped.

"Having your life changed by music is incredibly privileged," Elizabeth Van Nostrand, a member of Seattle Effective Altruists, a local collective that is part of an international movement, told the Times. "People whose lives are changed by not dying — that's a bigger thing." And even when young donors decide to support artists or an arts group, those groups often are stymied by requests for granular data, finding themselves hard-pressed to collect the data, much less analyze it.

Perhaps for a generation raised on the belief that "information wants to be free," continuing to pay for music performances, film showings, or art exhibitions is beyond the scope of many millennials' imagination. Then, too, many young tech philanthropists don't just want to write a check; they want to be directly involved in the organizations they support, leaving arts groups struggling to figure out how to engage them.

"They are not of the generation who will say, 'I love you. I’m just going to give you $25,000 to your annual fund'," said Seattle Symphony president and CEO Simon Woods. "I think that that's when we have to do a better job at talking about the impact we make."