Skip to main content Skip to footer site map

New Study Reveals Downward Trend of Performing Arts Philanthropic Revenue in North America

Analysis provides insights of who is giving during the COVID-19 pandemic on both sides of the Atlantic.

In the first nine months of 2020, the number of philanthropic gifts received by performing arts organizations in North America increased by 15% while the average value of those gifts fell by 24% from the previous year, according to a new study released by international arts management consultants TRG Arts and U.K. arts data specialists Purple Seven.

The October COVID-19 Sector Benchmark Insight Report also reveals that as the pandemic continues, the number of gifts and the philanthropic revenue generated from them are not being sustained. In North America aggregate gift revenue from June to September was down 29% compared to 2019, and down 75% in the U.K.

The October COVID-19 Sector Benchmark Insight Report is the latest release in a series of studies examining near real-time data from box office feeds of both commercial and not-for-profit venues of all scales in the U.S., Canada and the U.K. It is based on data gathered from 117 arts venues (63 in the U.S., 7 in Canada and 47 in the U.K). The majority of the sample are theaters, but there is also a representation of arts centers and orchestras.

Among the study highlights:

In North America:
• The number of gifts given per month in 2020 was higher than every month in 2019 until July. In July, August and September both gift numbers and gift revenue were lower than in 2019.
• The largest growth in the number of gifts has come from the most loyal 'Super Active' patrons (10 or more previous engagements), but the average size of gifts from these patrons has fallen by 38%.
• N.A. organizations continue to be heavily reliant on gifts from individuals with no previous box office or philanthropic history, but the average size of gifts from these patrons has fallen 28% in the first nine months of 2020.

In the UK:
• In the first nine months of 2020 the number of gifts received fell by 35% and the average value of those gifts fell by 11%.
• There was a spike in the value of gifts of less than £1 million in April at the time when many organizations in both the U.K. and North America were encouraging ticket holders to make donations rather than request a refund for cancelled performances.
• 74% of all gift revenue received in the first nine months of 2020 came from the most loyal 'Super Active' patrons.
• The monthly number and cumulative value of gifts compared to 2019 from these patrons has dropped sharply since June, down 47% and 89% 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 Officer 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."

"Some individual organizations are bucking national trends, and in the U.K. national governments have provided additional support via grants to mitigate the crisis in the industry," said Purple Seven Managing Director David Brownlee. "Nonetheless, the aggregate data highlights a worrying trend that could further jeopardize performing arts organizations already deprived of box office revenue. We will continue to monitor and provide monthly updates on aggregate gifts and gift revenue in both the U.K. and North America."

The full October COVID-19 Sector Benchmark Insight Report is available at TRG Arts and Purple Seven will publish further studies on a monthly basis while the COVID-19 pandemic continues to impact the arts and culture sector. Previous COVID-19 Sector Benchmark Insight Reports available are:
• September 2020, "COVID-19 and the Performing Arts - Six Months After Closure"
• August 2020, "Who is booking now? Changes in ticket buyer demographics post COVID-19"
• June 2020, "Individual Donations - Is New Philanthropic Income Replacing Lost Ticket Income?"
• May 2020, "Tracking the Initial Impact of COVID-19 on the Performing Arts in the U.K. and North America"

TRG Arts offers a range of free resources for cultural and arts professionals throughout the USA, Canada, the UK and the EU to ensure the field of arts and culture thrives now and after the COVID-19 crisis:
TRG 30, a weekly 30-minute webinar series of crisis counsel and best practices that attracts hundreds of executives globally each week:
TRG blog for the latest on COVID-19 related topics:

About the COVID-19 Benchmark Dashboard
Purple Seven and TRG Arts continue to offer free access to the free COVID-19 Benchmark Dashboard to organizations in the U.S., Canada, the U.K. and the Republic of Ireland. To register visit

Expansion of the COVID-19 Benchmark Dashboard is supported in part by a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) to SMU DataArts, a national center for arts research and TRG Arts' long-time partner in advancing the arts and culture sector.

Related Articles View More Denver Stories   Shows

More Hot Stories For You