Private giving to arts organizations comes primarily from individuals, but also from foundations, corporations, and bequests. Private funds represent about a third of the total income stream of nonprofit arts groups. Giving USA (a reliable annual review of private philanthropy) estimates total private dollars going to arts and culture, one of several areas of nonprofit service. Arts support was $13.328 billion in 2010 compared to giving of $100.63 billion to religion, $41.67 billion to education, $26.549 billion to human services, $33 billion to foundations, $24.24 billion to public society benefit, and $22.83 billion to health.

This indicator measures total private giving to arts and culture organizations in each county in 2009, divided by the county’s 2010 population to create a per capita figure. These revenues certainly come from local residents, foundations, and businesses, but may also include outside sources. Like program revenues, contributions may move from place to place. While consumers of program services pay program revenues (they are more likely to be local), contributed revenues might as well come from either individuals or institutions (foundations, businesses) from outside the area, especially when local arts organizations obtain regionally- or nationally-funded grants.

In parallel with the program revenue indicator, then, this indicator shows the capacity of local organizations to raise revenue from contributors – recognizing with the distinction that it is more likely that some contributed revenue is imported into the area from outside sources. For example, prominent arts organizations in New York City receive national support. Because arts organizations do not report their funding sources uniformly to the IRS, it is not possible to know how big a share of total this “outside money” is. Still, contribution revenue can be interpreted per capita as a county’s arts organizations’ ability to raise revenue from donors (of all types and in all places) to finance arts programming for county residents.

Data for this indicator are from the 2009 Core Files at the National Center for Charitable Statistics.


Additional Information: Counties with indicator value = 2,507. Average county indicator value = $34.33. Median county indicator value = $9.49.


Fast Facts from the Arts Index

Audiences are growing!

In 2010, 32 percent of the adult population attended a performing arts event (up from 28 percent in 2009); 13 percent visited an art museum (up slightly from 12 percent). These are the first increases since 2003.