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TRG Arts & Purple Seven Study Reveals Bright Spots Of Philanthropic Gift Revenues To Performing Arts Organizations

The data from 141 non-profit performing arts organizations (73 in the U.S., 12 in Canada and 56 in the U.K.) come from the COVID-19 Sector Benchmark.

TRG Arts & Purple Seven Study Reveals Bright Spots Of Philanthropic Gift Revenues To Performing Arts Organizations

A new study of performing arts organizations in the U.S., Canada and the U.K. released today by international arts management consultants TRG Arts and U.K. arts data specialists Purple Seven shows a decline in philanthropic revenue in 2020 on both sides of the Atlantic. However, despite a 13% decrease in revenue in North America and a 32% decrease in the U.K., there is a more diverse picture behind the aggregate figures. The study, COVID-19 and Philanthropy - Giving in 2020, reveals that in the North American cohort almost half of organizations (49%) increased their gift revenue in 2020 and almost three-quarters (74%) received more gifts than they had in 2019. Organizations who raised less funding from individuals in 2019 were more likely to increase their philanthropic income in 2020, and there was a growth in the number of smaller gifts in both markets, correlating with reports of revenue for cancelled shows being converted to gifts rather than refunds.

The data from 141 non-profit performing arts organizations (73 in the U.S., 12 in Canada and 56 in the U.K.) come from the COVID-19 Sector Benchmark, an initiative led by TRG Arts and Purple Seven, which has grown into the largest global arts and cultural consumer dataset in the industry. It captures near real-time data from box office feeds of all scales in the U.S., Canada and the U.K. The majority of the sample are theaters, but there is also a representation of arts centers and orchestras.

The study also reveals that in North America in 2020:
• While aggregate gift revenue was down 13%, the number of gifts received rose by 15% compared to 2019.
• There was a fall in aggregate revenue coming from the biggest gifts in 2020. Most of the overall 13% fall in aggregate revenue was due to a reduction of almost $43 million in gifts of over $1 million.
• The number of gifts given per month was higher than 2019 in every month until August 2020. Gift numbers fell in September, October and November, but increased in December.

"Arts fundraisers have never faced a year like 2020," said TRG Chief Executive Officer Jill Robinson. "Many organizations have risen to the challenges and successfully engaged current and past patrons to continue to provide support, even when they have nothing on their stages or in their museums. As the sector recovers from the impact of the pandemic, organizations need to show their appreciation both to long-time supporters and to the many thousands who made a philanthropic contribution for the first time in 2020. Smart cultural organizations are thinking about the next 10 years and those who showed their support by making a contribution rather than taking a refund for a cancelled performance or exhibit. If in 2030 we have a new cohort of major donors who began their philanthropic relationship thanks to the pandemic, the sector will have been strengthened mightily."

The study shows that some organizations in both North America and the U.K. have used the pandemic as a catalyst for major growth in philanthropic income from a low base in 2019. Two organizations in North America and 11 in the U.K. increased gift revenue by over 400%.

"It's not just the scale of giving that's different in North America compared to the U.K.," said Purple Seven Managing Director David Brownlee. "Most U.K. organizations rely on a mixture of small gift top-ups when purchasing tickets or one-off support for particular appeals. In 2020, many organizations mounted 'crisis' campaigns, and some were relatively successful. A strategy of repeatedly proclaiming a crisis to drive fundraising will inevitably lead to diminishing returns. The best U.K. arts fundraisers take the same approach as their North American colleagues in focusing on long term relationships where supporters understand and value what the organization is delivering for its community."

The full study of COVID-19 and Philanthropy - Giving in 2020 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 Insight Reports available are:
• November 2020, "Ticket Sales & Philanthropy"
• October 2020, "Who is Giving?"
• 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 U.S., Canada, the U.K. 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:

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