Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Show Me The Money!

Where Does the Money Come From?
Ticket sales, grants, individual donors, the college, corporate sponsorships, tax dollars, student fees, government arts agency, concession and merchandise sales, foundations, and any stone left un-turned.

The McAninch Arts Center (MAC) is considered a medium sized performing arts center based on the metrics used in the Urban Institute analysis of U.S. arts presenters The Capacity of Performing Arts Presenting Organizations. For fiscal year 2012 the MAC operated a $3.1 million budget. For the purposes of accounting and this discussion we split that number into Educational Arts Support ($1.09 million) and Arts Presenting  ($2.02 million). The former represents our support for student productions, concerts and exhibits in Music, Theatre, Dance and Visual Art, the latter is our public face, work we create (symphony and theatre ensemble) and work we present (artist series, art gallery, school series, community engagement work), all for our community. The support for student work in the arts is supported by academic mission of the college and funded through tuition, student fees and tax dollars. Our challenge is to make the other side of the coin work – what the college calls an auxiliary function of the institution.

So how does this subsidiary of the college operate? In fiscal year 2012 the MAC spent $2.02 million on the non-academic side. This number is split $1.49 million of earned revenue and $530,000 of subsidy from the College of DuPage. 
MAC 2012 Revenue
Add that $530K the College provided the auxiliary side of the MAC to the $1.09 million the College puts out to support student performance and exhibition in Theatre, Music, Dance and Art and COD spent $1.62 million on arts and culture last year. Absent from these numbers are facility and utility support (custodial, grounds, engineering, heating, cooling, electricity and water). For the mid-sized, community college-based performing arts center there are three primary sources of revenue 1) earned income (ticket sales and alternate earned income sources), 2) contributed income (fundraising, grant, endowment), and 3) support from the host institution. The MAC breakdown is 64% - 10% - 26%.

How do we manage if the College subsidy goes away? Reduce costs, increase revenues, grow audience, change programming, develop alternative revenue sources,… the list goes on and every arts administrator can recite it. Keeping with our theme, where does the money come from, we can easily answer where it does not come from. Reports from Kelly Barsdate, Steve Lawrence, Reina Mukai and Holly Sidford respectively in Grantmakers in the Arts: GIA Reader and National Center for Responsive Philanthropy: Fusing Arts, Culture and Social Change left me with these points:
1.      Grant dollars for the performing and visual arts have steadily decreased over recent years.
2.      Median grant size ($25,000) has remained unchanged since 1993. When adjusted for inflation the median grant has decreased.
3.      State and local arts funding has decreased in recent years precipitously, minus 39% and 20% respectively. The MAC has seen a 70% decrease in Illinois Arts Council support.
4.      Small to medium sized arts organizations receive dis-proportionally fewer dollars than large arts organizations, 2% of organizations have budgets greater than $5 million but they receive 55% of dollars donated and granted.
If we’re waiting for foundations, grantors, the government or big corporate donors to come to the aid of medium to small performing arts centers we should not hold our collective breath.

Community colleges are late to the philanthropic table. While our counterparts at four-year universities have been raising money for decades our little arts organization just began making an organized annual appeal for donations six years ago. Our center does not have a fundraiser on staff nor does it have an advisory board with give/get mandate. We do not have a strategic planned giving program for the arts. We have never really asked our patrons to step up in a big way. We always assumed that the institution would take care of us. They always have. We historically ran deficits that were annually excused until three years ago when the College added the number up and it totaled $2.2 million accumulated over approximately a dozen years. That is a sobering number. If the MAC had to ask its patrons to make up a $500,000 annual shortfall it would mean increasing our annual giving by almost 800%.

We’re pretty good at generating dollars through ticket sales ($1 million plus annually). We manage to provide an eclectic mix of music, theatre, dance and visual arts experiences that our community is willing to pay for; however, if we had to survive totally on generated revenue what would that mean? There is art we put on the stage and in the gallery that without subsidy in some form would never see the limelight. Our Dance Series, New Philharmonic, and Buffalo Theatre Ensemble are three examples. Should the free market determine what art is available to a community or should it be part of the mission of a community college to provide its constituents with arts experiences they otherwise could not provide for themselves?

This leads us next to mission and programming. If you have questions, answers or disagree with something I've said, I hope you’ll comment. I promise to engage with you respectfully.

Be well,

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