As employee engagement becomes a priority for companies, many of them are turning to the arts in an effort to fuel attraction and retention, according to Business Contributions to the Arts: 2017 Edition, published by The Conference Board and Americans for the Arts.
Nearly 70 percent of companies surveyed responded that they offered board service opportunities at arts organizations for their employees, while 65 percent offered volunteer activities and 63 percent provided free or discounted tickets to arts events. However, measuring the business or societal impact of arts contributions continues to challenge most companies and their partners, as only 28 percent of businesses reported making an effort to measure these impacts.
“Engaged, creative employees who are encouraged to think in new, innovative ways are more likely to be productive and active in improving both the company and their own business skills,” said Robert L. Lynch, president and CEO of Americans for the Arts, in a news release. “The arts build empathy, observation, and problem-identification and problem-solving skills, which translates to better customer service and a deeper understanding of the constituency.”
“Impact measurement has become increasingly important to the corporate philanthropy sector in recent years,” said Jonathan Spector, CEO of The Conference Board, in the release. “Our data shows, however, that measurement within the arts world has not advanced as successfully as other social causes. The benefits are clear, but companies and their arts partners need to become more sophisticated at demonstrating this in a business context.”
Companies consider the arts to be important in building quality of life, stimulating creative thinking and problem solving, and offering networking opportunities and the potential to develop new business and build market share. As a result, arts organizations enjoyed a positive three years between 2013-2016 in terms of contributions from businesses, with the vast majority of companies either maintaining or increasing their arts support.
The majority of arts contributions come from philanthropy budgets—either foundations or corporate giving accounts. Ninety percent of companies reported giving to the arts through contributions budgets, but 41 percent of companies also supported the arts through marketing or sponsorship dollars, which can help to explain why there has not been a slowdown recently in overall contributions to the arts, as companies turn to the arts to support brand recognition and growth.
Other findings from the report include:
- More than half of respondents overall (53 percent) reported that arts support contributes to stimulating creative thinking and problem solving. Clearly, supporting the arts as a way to encourage creativity and innovation at companies is a growth area for arts and business partnerships.
- Smaller companies demonstrated a greater interest in arts support than their larger counterparts. The percentage of arts giving in overall philanthropy budgets for small companies is approximately 20 percent higher than large companies.
- Government support for the arts is under threat from the Trump Administration in the FY2018 budget. The private sector could be asked to increase resources to a sector that faces potential government cutbacks following the Trump Administration’s threat to cut the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA). In interviews, respondents said it was too early to know, but there could be more pressure on them to increase funding and advocacy. However, it is likely that companies will also see pressure to increase contributions to other sectors facing cuts in the federal budget (for example, environmental issues).
The survey draws on 125 responses from companies that participate in corporate philanthropy, employee engagement, volunteer programs, or sponsorships. The survey was conducted in the fall of 2016 and asked for information based on corporate practices existing at the time of the survey compilation. In addition, a total of 15, 20-minute in-depth telephone interviews were conducted with philanthropic decision-makers at businesses that donate to the arts. The interviews took place between February 9, 2017 and February 24, 2017. The decision-makers were recruited from lists provided by the BCA.