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Charitable Giving in the US: Contributions to the Arts, Culture, and Humanities Sector

In 2014, charitable giving to nonprofit organizations in the arts, culture, and humanities sector reached a total of $17.23 billion – a total of 5 percent of all donations received by charities in 2014, according to Giving USA 2015: The Annual Report on Philanthropy. When assessing charitable giving to the arts, culture, and humanities sector these past few years, we are seeing that there is a steady growth in contributions. Between the years of 2013 and 2014, giving to arts, culture, and humanities increased by 9.2 percent. Below are some key findings and recommendations that are intended to help organizations in the arts, culture and humanities sector effectively prepare for their future in fundraising.

Key Findings

  • Charitable giving to the arts, culture, and humanities subsector was 5 percent of total giving in 2014.

  • Charitable contributions to arts, culture, and humanities organizations increased 9.2 percent from 2013, to $17.23 billion.


  • The total amount contributed to arts, culture, and humanities in 2014 reached its highest inflation-adjusted value ever. The 2014 total for giving to arts, culture, and humanities followed the high of $17.03 billion recorded for the year 2007 and $16.34 billion for the year 2006.

  • Nonprofit-sector reports indicate that more arts, culture, and humanities organizations saw increases in charitable contributions in 2014 compared with 2013, with online giving showing particularly strong growth in this subsector, according to Blackbaud’s 2014 Charitable Giving Report. 

Key Recommendations

  • Take stock: We saw an unfortunate dip in giving to the arts during the recession, but we have been steadily climbing back up. It’s time to take a minute to check in with your donors, understand what motivates them and retool your case for support accordingly. When was the last time you asked a donor what he/she values most about your work?

  • Be prepared: The nonprofit industry is abuzz with the rise of the mega gift. While this means different things to different sectors, are you prepared to answer the call if a donor wants to do something transformational for your institution? It’s time to check in with your strategic priorities (or create a strategic plan if you don’t have one) so that fundraising can be aligned with the vision of your institution. Remember, big gifts come from big vision.

  • Build relationships: Embrace a systemic approach to managing donor relationships that includes portfolios for all frontline fundraising staff AND executive/artistic leadership. Document a tailored strategy for all major donors and get out and meet them! We know that donors of the arts and culture sector typically give to other sectors as well. Trust us when we say that if you are not seeing your donors, others are.

Questions? Please contact Melissa Berliner. We are happy to further discuss Giving USA 2015 and sector specific recommendations with you.

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Melissa Berliner
About Melissa Berliner As a Senior Vice President, Melissa Berliner has expertise in quickly identifying the core challenges facing clients and developing tailored, innovative strategies to address them. Collaborating with...
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