Individual giving to performing arts organizations continues to fall

Individual giving to performing arts organizations continues to fall

The impact of the COVID-19 crisis on individual giving to performing arts organizations in the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom appears to be worsening, a report from arts consultancy TRG Arts and arts data specialists Purple Seven finds. 

Based on data from more than a hundred arts organizations, the study, COVID-19 Sector Benchmark: Insight Report October 2020 (18 pages, PDF), found that aggregate revenue from individual donors in the first nine months of 2020 fell 14 percent in North America and 42 percent in the UK on a year-over-year basis. According to the report, the total number of gifts in the U.S. and Canada rose 15 percent for the nine-month period, with monthly numbers holding steady above 2019 levels through June but down from July to September, while monthly revenue from individual gifts was higher on a year-over year basis in April and June but lower every month since, with the average gift size for the nine-month period down some 24 percent. 

The largest increase in number of gifts (47 percent) was from organizations' most loyal patrons — those who had donated to the organization and/or attended performances at least ten times — with monthly numbers above 2019 levels in every month through September. At the same time, total revenue and average gift size were down 38 percent and 8 percent for the nine-month period. 

In the UK, performing arts groups saw the number of gifts fall 35 percent over the first nine months of 2020, while monthly revenue on a year-over-year basis was higher in March and June only, with the average gift size falling some 11 percent. And while the most loyal patrons accounted for 74 percent of all gift revenue received by UK arts organizations through September, the monthly number and cumulative value of those gifts fell sharply after June, down 47 percent and 89 percent, respectively.

"The large decreases in average gift size indicate where marketing efforts need to be focused in these final months of 2020," said TRG chief executive Jill Robinson. "End-of-year giving campaigns typically result in large percentages of overall gift revenue for the year. This year they can also provide an opportunity to engage donors by sharing the journey arts organizations have been on to stay resilient during COVID-19 and how important donor support is to the success of resiliency strategies."