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Home / Blog / Organizations / It Takes Money to Make Money – SMU DataArts’ Fundraising Report

It Takes Money to Make Money – SMU DataArts’ Fundraising Report

Kalyn King, Program Officer

Zannie Giraud Voss, Ph.D., Director of SMU DataArts, presenting on findings from the DataArts system
Zannie Giraud Voss, Ph.D., Director of SMU DataArts, presenting on findings from the DataArts system.

Organizations receiving funding through Mass Cultural Council’s Cultural Investment Portfolio have been participating in the DataArts platform for about a decade. In addition to being a reporting mechanism to us and other funders, DataArts has used that information to provide data-informed insights and resources to the arts and cultural sector – for grantmakers, researchers, and individual organizations.

The recent merger between DataArts and Southern Methodist University (SMU)’s National Center for Arts Research (NCAR) brings together the data platform and in-house research expertise, and promises many future reports and tools for those who want to see the arts and culture sector thrive

One wonderful product of the new entity is the “Fundraising Report.”  (View this webinar for the audio/visual presentation.) SMU DataArts will have a similar webinar on September 24, specifically on how board members can use findings from The Fundraising Report to understand the context in which arts and cultural organizations are working. Registration for that is open now.

Takeaways on their Fundraising Report:

  • It takes money to make money. On average, organizations are spending less money on fundraising, and getting less in return.
    • Nationally, the amount of contributed revenue generated from every dollar of fundraising expenses went down from $8.80 in 2014 to $8.56 in 2017. Fundraising efficiency (the average dollar amount of contributions raised from each dollar spent on fundraising) likewise decreased on average for Massachusetts organizations, from $9.15 in 2015 to $7.77 in 2017.
    • Notably – organization size is a factor here. Small and medium organizations generally saw a return on fundraising rose over time – they became increasingly effective and efficient. Large organizations’ return on fundraising declined steadily over time.
    • Sector/Genre is a factor too. Most disciplines actually saw an increase in the return on fundraising by 2017. The only four to see a decrease in Return on Fundraising were the Art Museum, Dance, Performing Arts Center, and Theater sectors. Community-based organizations had the highest Return on Fundraising, and General performing arts was the lowest.
  • Individuals are key. The data matches what we’ve been hearing anecdotally out on site visits across Massachusetts – individual giving is the most important source of contributions for most organizations. Their giving relative to expenses has gone up in the past four years.
    • SMU DataArts postulates that an increasing allocation of fundraising expenses to staff – from 54% to 62% – may be part of this trend, when an investment in staff allows for further relationship development with donors. Findings here match the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP)’s 2019 Compensation and Benefits Report – another great read.
  • Yet… there appears to be a natural ceiling on the return each dollar of investment in fundraising yields, despite big differences in the average amount spent and average amount raised. Numerous sectors hit a ceiling of about $8.50 raised for every dollar spent on fundraising.

Wondering how your organization’s fundraising trends match up with national averages?

  • Log in to DataArts and use the data you have already entered to run an individualized Fundraising Report.
    • View a Sample Report
    • See your fundraising activity clearly and analyze return on your fundraising investment. Determine your fundraising efficiency using key ratios, and review trends in dollars and sources of revenue.

Not yet participating in DataArts? 

Massachusetts organizations have access to the platform for free through support from Mass Cultural Council and a few other local funders. Create an account and get started.

Hungry for more analytics reports?

SMU DataArts also offers the KIPI Dashboard, a free online diagnostic tool that allows arts organizations to benchmark their individual performance in nine finance and operations categories against their peers.


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