Beyond the Check: A Roadmap for Engaging Individual Donors

Posted by Greater Philadelphia Cultural Alliance on May 21, 2018

Cultural Alliance publishes report on engaging individual donors

The Greater Philadelphia Cultural Alliance has unveiled its most recent research report, Beyond the Check: A Roadmap for Engaging Individual Donors.

Previous research by the Cultural Alliance found that individual giving to arts and culture nationally was down 9.7% from 2009-2012, and in Southeastern Pennsylvania it was down 12.7%.

Generous support from the Wyncote Foundation has allowed the Cultural Alliance to make a fresh exploration of the motivations and barriers, perceived or real, of high-net-worth individuals when considering financial support of the arts and culture sector. A task force of wealth advisors and fundraising professionals shaped and informed the research project, which was led by The Melior Group.

“Arts organizations are having major social impact in neighborhoods and communities throughout the region and are often doing that with much less financial support than many people think they have,” says David Haas, trustee of the Wyncote Foundation. “This report shows that misconceptions about arts and culture funding are what hold many people back from supporting the sector, and the research and education that the Cultural Alliance is doing in this area will be invaluable in maintaining the health of Greater Philadelphia’s artistic ecosystem.”

The findings will lead to new strategies for individual organizations and the cultural sector as a whole. The report consists of three parts: a literature review revealing national trends in individual giving to all causes; the results of a survey to existing donors to the Cultural Alliance’s member organizations; and 18 in-depth interviews with high-net-worth philanthropists in the area, 13 of whom do not significantly support arts and culture.

“I commend the Cultural Alliance for taking on this important work,” says Eileen R. Heisman, president and CEO of National Philanthropic Trust in Jenkintown, PA. “Since most giving in this country comes from individuals, it is essential for all cultural nonprofits to make individual giving an organizational priority.”

“What came out of our series of interviews with high-net-worth individuals was that the decision not to support the arts is more often related to having different priorities and passions than it is a conscious choice to ignore the sector,” says Linda J. McAleer, president of The Melior Group. “What we found was high-net-worth donors’ decisions are based on what is important to them or to their families’ traditions and that they want to ‘feel needed’ for their intellect and abilities–not just their financial gifts.”

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