What Are The Takeaways From ArtsWave's $10.4 Million Give to the Cincinnati Community?

ArtsWave recently invested $10.4 million in the greater Cincinnati community to extend the impact of the arts across the region. A majority of funds provide impact grants to 35 local arts organizations. In addition, ArtsWave is investing $435,000 in 60 smaller project grants and strategic local partnerships.

Restricted gifts to the community campaign will underwrite special initiatives in arts innovation, arts education, and arts and health. Contributions to the campaign also support a variety of shared services for arts organizations such as collective marketing, board training, and employee engagement programs, as well as campaign fundraising expenses.

As we combed through the news, two things jumped out at us.

An impressive regional fundraising and grant-making architecture. ArtsWave's success is attributable to its expansive fundraising model that includes the strong support of the business community through more than 260 workplace giving campaigns. ArtWave relies on grantmaking committees of more than 50 community representatives who are tasked with evaluating grant submissions and determining dollar awards. While the latter component may sound like a lot of administration, it's all a byproduct of the fact that ArtsWave receives many submissions.

We're particularly intrigued by ArtsWave's workplace giving campaign network because when you think about it, such an approach is—for a lack of better term—the "gateway drug" for everyday donors. After all, does the typical office worker grasp the importance of the arts in their community? Perhaps in theory. But what if they don't? And if they do grasp the importance, do they donate or volunteer their time? Maybe. But again, what if they don't? A strong workforce-based giving campaign introduces workers to their community's arts scene and illustrates its importance. Soon enough, checks are written.

This is just one reason why ArtsWave, according to its press release, "continues to be the largest united arts fund in the country, both in contributions and in number of donors."

A commitment to performance measurement. We've talked a lot about how foundations need more transparency, but this mandate isn't a zero-sum game. In other words, if foundations plan on providing greater visibility into grantmaking priorities, donors will also inevitably—and rightly—demand that their money is well-spent. It's an intuitive notion, of course, but one that we're actually seeing with greater frequency in recent months. For example, we recently looked at how Bloomberg Philanthropies' Arts Innovation and Management program measures the performance of recipient organizations. And in a similar vein, ArtsWave made two-year impact grants in 2014 to 15 organizations, "contingent upon performance and campaign success."

In fact, performance measurement is very near and dear to ArtsWave's heart. The press release noted that the organization will "continue its groundbreaking work in quantifying and promoting arts’ impact across the community."