Arts Groups Cultivating New Generation of Donors

Faced with shifting demographics and the emergence of new technologies, arts institutions are reaching out to a generation of patrons and benefactors who see support for the arts more as an investment than a gift, the Washington Post reports.

While there are more millionaires in the United States in their fifties than in their sixties, fewer young philanthropists are making large gifts in support of the arts. Those who do, however, often favor a tech-savvy, hands-on donor experience. In response, arts organizations, galleries, museums, and theaters are adapting their fundraising and programming strategies to appeal to such donors. According to the Post, fundraising experts also are finding that younger philanthropists give significant amounts to education and community development groups, including arts institutions that champion arts education. "Arts and something else," said Robert Lynch, president and CEO of American for the Arts. "Community development is what many donors are interested in, and arts are a tool that helps deliver that. That's the motivation."

And because new technologies have lessened Americans' dependence on the performing arts for entertainment, arts organizations are incorporating mobile and digital technology into their programming and marketing, Marie Mattson, vice president of development at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, told the Post. The center was among the earliest adopters of digital outreach, putting performances featured on its Millennium Stage online in 1999, and such efforts have paid off in broadening its global reach, Mattson said.

Other institutions are adapting to the reemergence of venture philanthropy — technology and business executives making long-term financial commitments to charities that they then work with to meet quantifiable goals. "The younger entrepreneurs have a desire to be more involved," said George Cogan, board chair of the Exploratorium, a San Francisco-based museum of science, art, and human perception. "They want to participate in the future direction of the institution and know how to apply the tools of modern technology to disrupt existing models."

Katherine Boyle. "Cultivating the Next Generation of Arts Donors." Washington Post 10/19/2012.