Why exactly do rich people give money to the arts? If you think about it, the two are strange bedfellows: wealth usually begets conservatism while the arts tilt overwhelmingly liberal. Granted, there are certainly rich liberals, but I think there’s more to it than that—after all, some of the biggest arts donors in the USA are also some of the biggest backers of the Tea Party, and red states are significantly more philanthropic than blue ones. Why would conservatives give money to liberal causes like art?
You could simply say that rich conservatives support art because some of them enjoy art. Or, that since the rich have the most money, donors will by definition come from that group. But that’s an incomplete answer, and it doesn’t match what we see in philanthropy statistics. Among high net worth donors, the arts is the #3 most widespread category in terms of charitable giving, just after education and basic needs—but ahead of health and religion. For non-wealthy donors, religion is the #1 most common recipient and art doesn’t make it into the rankings. (more…)
Stack of US Bills, CC by "401(K) 2012" on Flickr
Some friends of mine were having an interesting Facebook discussion around Ellen Cushing’s recent article in the East Bay Express, about crowdfunding, philanthropy, and what the young and well-to-do of Silicon Valley mean for the future of the arts. The issue was whether or not crowdfunding was replacing traditional arts philanthropy and what this means for the long-term viability of arts organizations. Kickstarter campaigns are great for early-stage artists, but they couldn’t reasonably sustain something like the San Francisco Symphony, or even smaller chamber organizations like SFCMP or SFSound. So if young people with a lot of money are eschewing the traditional philanthropic route in favor of crowdfunding, what does that mean for arts organizations?
Nothing. Crowdfunding is a new category of fundraising, and it draws a different set of people for reasons unrelated to traditional philanthropy—each addresses a separate “need” for the donor that the other doesn’t. The reduction in philanthropic support for the arts right now is not tied to crowdfunding, but rather to larger shifts in cultural priorities. (more…)