Not All Data From The Pandemic Was Negative

There’s a fascinating report from SMU Data Arts on the Fundraising Performance over the first half of the pandemic. Spoiler: the arts sector saw a sizeable increase in their Return on Fundraising.

For the purposes of the report, Return on Fundraising is determined by dividing Total Contributed Revenue but total Fundraising Expenses. Based on the data they collected, here’s what they discovered:

  1. 2017: fundraising efforts raised $6.16 for every dollar spent.
  2. 2018: fundraising efforts raised $5.94 for every dollar spent, a 3.57143% decrease.
  3. 2019: fundraising efforts raised $6.22 for every dollar spent, a 4.7138% increase.
  4. 2020: fundraising efforts raised $7.35 for every dollar spent, an 18.1672% increase.

The remaining article takes a deeper dive into what they believe caused this spike but what I found most interesting is their review of whether a lower amount of fundraising expenditures yielding similar or higher levels of contributions.

I won’t spoil that data surprise, but the results should be enough to spark more than simple curiosity from an organization’s executive leadership team when it comes to budget allocations. I always love research that casts doubt on conventional wisdom and there are still plenty of questions, this report starts a good conversation about the more = more approach to fundraising budgets.

If that weren’t enough, there’s a great section on how government funded pandemic relief programs impact everything so you’re going to want to set aside some time to get through everything with the fine-tooth comb it deserves.

Read the article, by Daniel Fonner, Associate Director for Research, SMU DataArts or download the full report.

About Drew McManus

"I hear that every time you show up to work with an orchestra, people get fired." Those were the first words out of an executive's mouth after her board chair introduced us. That executive is now a dear colleague and friend but the day that consulting contract began with her orchestra, she was convinced I was a hatchet-man brought in by the board to clean house.

I understand where the trepidation comes from as a great deal of my consulting and technology provider work for arts organizations involves due diligence, separating fact from fiction, interpreting spin, as well as performance review and oversight. So yes, sometimes that work results in one or two individuals "aggressively embracing career change" but far more often than not, it reinforces and clarifies exactly what works and why.

In short, it doesn't matter if you know where all the bodies are buried if you can't keep your own clients out of the ground, and I'm fortunate enough to say that for more than 15 years, I've done exactly that for groups of all budget size from Qatar to Kathmandu.

For fun, I write a daily blog about the orchestra business, provide a platform for arts insiders to speak their mind, keep track of what people in this business get paid, help write a satirical cartoon about orchestra life, hack the arts, and love a good coffee drink.

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