Poll on Public Opinion and Giving to Arts in Massachusetts

December 21, 2003

Boston -- A poll showing that the public’s opinion of corporations is significantly boosted when corporations support nonprofit organizations was released today by the Boston Foundation. The poll found that people said they are more likely to patronize a company or purchase its products based on that company’s active support of nonprofits of all types, and that more than three-quarters of the public believes it’s important to live in a community where corporations actively support arts and cultural organizations.The survey, conducted by the University of Massachusetts Poll at the McCormack Institute of Public Affairs, was done as a part of the ongoing work of the Boston Foundation’s Cultural Task Force to gain a better understanding of donors in Massachusetts. Administered by Louis DiNatale, Director of the Poll, this survey provides insight into the motivation and giving patterns of residents of the Commonwealth.

“There is no denying the crucial role that arts and culture have played in making Boston a truly eminent city. From our world-renowned institutions such as the Boston Symphony and the New England Aquarium, to the smallest community programs, these organizations enrich us in innumerable ways,” said Paul S. Grogan, President and CEO of the Boston Foundation. “But at the same time, this wonderful asset – one that provides not only great art and cultural opportunities for all residents, but also makes significant economic contributions to the city as a whole – is very fragile. Its leadership struggles every year to raise the funds necessary to sustain their operations. Our corporate community has a significant role to play in supporting the long term planning and growth of this valuable sector.”

The Cultural Task Force was launched last February when the Boston Foundation released its report, “Funding for Cultural Organizations in Boston and Nine Other Metropolitan Areas.” The Task Force, which is made up of about 60 corporate, civic, philanthropic and cultural leaders, will develop a series of recommendations to strengthen Boston’s arts and cultural organizations. The task force is co-chaired by David Ellis, President Emeritus of the Museum of Science and a Senior Fellow at the Boston Foundation, and by Ann McQueen, Program Officer at the Foundation. The Task Force is divided into subcommittees that focus on five topics: philanthropy; public policy; resource sharing and collaboration; cultural facilities; and travel and tourism. A white paper will be published this spring to report on the Task Force’s findings and to set priorities for future advocacy activities.

The report that launched the Task Force confirmed the overall strength of Boston’s arts and cultural organizations, but also pointed out the significant weaknesses in Boston’s current funding structure. The Committee on Philanthropy, chaired by Martha Jones, Executive Director of Fleet Boston Celebrity Series, is exploring strategies to increase corporate and individual philanthropy in this sector.

“This poll gives us important baseline information on what people are thinking and doing about their charitable giving,” said Jones. “What we need to do is take this information and use it to build a permanent, active base of support for our cultural institutions, from the largest to the most basic, grass roots organizations, so that each one is reaching its full potential.”

The impact of Boston’s cultural sector, which totaled more than $1 billion in contributed and earned income in 2002, has a significant effect on the state economy. With more than 640 cultural nonprofits in Metro Boston, this sector is a very significant employer and economic engine.

“The funding of arts and culture organizations has long been a focus of philanthropic and sponsorship activity,” said Dan Salera, Director of Community Relations and Sponsorships, FleetBoston Financial. “After all, the arts help to define a community and give it a competitive advantage when attracting businesses and families. We’re pleased that the survey results support our own data that consumers would prefer doing business with companies who consistently give back to the community. My hope is that this latest survey will compel more corporations to do the right thing in helping our communities be successful through actively providing financial support to our arts organizations.”

Poll Summary and Analysis

  • Corporations derive significant benefit from their sponsorship and philanthropy: Corporate support of a nonprofit may be more likely to enhance the public’s opinion of the corporation than the nonprofit, which benefits from the financial or in-kind donation. It is very important to Massachusetts residents to live in a community in which corporations are strongly supportive of arts and cultural organizations.
    • 54% said that corporate support of a nonprofit positively influences their opinion of the corporation strongly (17%) or somewhat (37%).
    • 63% said their patronage of a corporation would be very (14%) or somewhat likely (49%) to be positively influenced based on its support of a nonprofit that is important to them.
    • Massachusetts residents want to live in a community in which corporations actively support arts organizations. An overwhelming 78% think it is very (31%) or somewhat (47%) important to live in a community in which the corporations actively support the arts.
    • Corporate support generally does not affect individual giving. 43% said a corporation’s support does not make it more or less likely that they would support the nonprofit. Interestingly, however, about the same percent said that corporate support of a nonprofit would make them less likely to give (30%) as those who said it would make them more likely to give (24%).
  • Giving to Arts and Cultural Organizations: Arts and cultural organizations benefit from a strong individual contributor base, many of whom give to an organization several times a year, as well as support multiple arts organizations in the course of a year.
    • 64% have given to one (16%), two (19%), three to five (24%) or more than five (3%) arts and cultural institutions in the past year. This suggests there is a hard core of 24% to 46% of the population who support the arts through multiple donations; and that when they give to one institution, they are strong targets for other institutions. It also may mean that there is a good opportunity to upgrade the one-time donors to become multi-donors.
    • Significant Multiple-Giver Contributor Base: 60% give to arts and cultural institutions at least once a year (31%), several times a year (28%) or once a month or more (1%).
    • Significant Volunteer Base: 24% volunteer or make non-cash contributions to arts and cultural institutions several times a year (11%) or once a month or more (13%).
  • All Nonprofit and Cause Related Giving: the poll shows that Massachusetts residents represent a significant contributor pool, with many respondents giving often or very often. These donors are motivated by the mission of the organization, and not by public recognition. Indeed, 80% of respondents wanted no public acknowledgement of their gift.
    • Significant Contributor Pool: 40% of respondents give “very often” (16%) or “often” (24%) and 24% of respondents indicated that they give sometimes for a pool of potential contributors of 64%.
    • Motivated by Mission: The overwhelming motivation of givers to donate is “belief in the mission of the organization” (72%). A distant second is “personal experience with services of the organization” (21%). All other reasons are each 2% or less.
    • Anonymity: 80% of all respondents do not desire public acknowledgment of their gift; only 10% prefer to have a public acknowledgement.