Creative Resilience: January 10, 2012

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artsfundOn December 6 The Community Foundation’s Metropolitan Atlanta Arts Fund convened local arts organizations and donors to hear the results of a recent report developed by the Nonprofit Finance Fund, which analyzed the financial condition of 40 Arts Fund grantees as well as strategies that funders might employ. Click here for media coverage.

The findings affirmed the instability of all but a handful of the region’s cultural institutions.
Highlights of the analysis:

  • 55% of the cohort broke even or reported deficits in 2010 (all theaters)
  • 73% expect to break even or below in 2011
  • 53% had negative liquidity (they owe more than they own)
  • 78% had three months or less operating reserve


Established in 1993 as a partnership with the Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce and established with substantial support from The Coca-Cola Company, the Arts Fund has awarded more than $9 million to 90+ arts organizations with budgets of up to $2 million.** After 18 years, the Arts Fund assets currently stands at $7 million and remains the only dedicated arts funder in the region.

Nonprofit arts groups nationwide have been coping with the effects of the difficult economic times and steady decline in donor and foundation support over the past several years. But for the past couple of years, and especially this year in metro Atlanta, the situation has become more acute, particularly for medium-sized organizations. All the talk about the “shrinking middle” in the overall national economy could also be said for the local theater community.

We’ve known this situation anecdotally and intuitively for some time and unfortunately we don’t see things improving greatly. As a place-based funder, The Community Foundation recognizes that the arts act as barometers for the health of our region. The arts inspire us, grow us, bridge our differences and stimulate our discourse. And, when the timing is right, the arts catalyze and catapult us to change.

Thus we continue to seek to be inventive in our leadership. We resourcefully award grants from our funds and leverage dollars from other local and national funders who have grown to know and trust us. We convene arts and non-arts groups to imagine collaborations and potential partnerships. We are originators of information, such as the recent analysis. We keep the conversation alive. We sound the alarm.  We do this because we believe that with enough people, time and attention, we can together create the strong community we all need and deserve.

** In the Atlanta region, there are 100+ arts organizations with budgets less than $1.5 million and seven with budgets between $2 and $10 million. Only one has a higher budget – the Woodruff Arts Center (Alliance Theater, Atlanta Symphony, High Museum and Young Audiences) – $87 million the end of 2009.