Supporting the Arts is Good Business

Throughout human history, the arts have served as a bridge between people, society and time. Art has the ability to provide a better understanding of the past, a special appreciation for the present, and a glimpse into the future. And in today’s world, it continues to encourage thought, evoke emotion and spark conversation — all key components to successful human interaction.

Interestingly enough, those same key components are critical to a successful business. A good product or service should encourage thought, evoke emotion and spark conversation. So with such a shared platform, you’d think it would be easier for people to understand and support the reciprocal link between the arts and business communities. But unfortunately, many businesses fail to recognize the benefits that can come from such a partnership.

It’s no secret that the arts in this country have taken a massive hit from our challenged economy. Even in the best of economic times the arts seem to struggle for adequate financial support. Unfortunately, with national, state and local governments facing major budget deficits, many arts programs are now struggling for survival. As a result, they are looking to businesses and private donors more than ever for support.

According to the Triennial Survey of Business Support for the Arts report from The Business Committee for the Arts, support for the arts from small and mid-size businesses has grown, while it has fallen from large businesses. That’s certainly note-worthy news, especially in a state like Rhode Island, where the majority of businesses are small to mid-size. But, with these smaller businesses also being hit hard by the economic times, it’s very important to understand the value in offering support to the arts community.

Simply put, supporting the arts can be a catalyst for more business. Seventyfour percent of companies say profitability was the most important factor they considered when deciding their support of the arts. While 63 percent say that they would either boost, or begin, their arts giving if their contribution directly impacted their bottom line.

By stimulating economic revitalization, the arts are good for our local and national economy. With a direct impact on cultural tourism, they can bring life back to depressed downtown urban areas and boost real estate values. The arts can also help to support social goals by reducing delinquency and crime, while promoting collaborative learning skills.

On the front line of business, the arts are beneficial to employees by developing skills, motivation, and creative thinking. They can help to attract and retain workers, which in turn has a positive economic impact. And when used through strategic sponsorship, the arts can help promote a business through sales, brandbuilding, visibility and direct access to a shared target market.

From 2006 to 2009, the Triennial Survey cited that gifts from small businesses grew from $500 to $700, while gifts from mid-size businesses grew from $2,000 to $2,250. And although gifts of money are critically important to the arts, support can also come in a variety of other forms:

  • In-kind donations of products and/or services
  • Volunteerism and/or Board service
  • Workplace giving and matching programs
  • Rental of cultural venues for business events
  • Corporate art collections
  • Workplace art programs and classes
  • Client gifts and appreciation
  • Corporate arts group memberships

If not already engaged in one or more of the practices above, a business could do well to consider getting involved. Robert L. Lynch, president and CEO of Americans for the Arts, said it well in statement, “Investing in the arts not only improves community quality of life, but also helps attract and retain a skilled workforce and build new markets.”

Understand it or not, the arts and business communities are closely connected and dependant upon one another. To flourish, both sectors depend on a healthy economy, a passionate and loyal audience, and effective partnerships. And by coming together, they can help to build and support each of those critical components — reaping the mutual benefits. Regardless of the manner in which a business may choose support the arts, at the end of the day, the important thing is that they choose to support!