Indiana UniversityIndiana University
Choose site to be searched
Type search terms

Nonprofit Capacity Assessment: Indiana's Arts and Culture Organizations

Nonprofit Capacity Report #3
June 2010
Kirsten A. Grønbjerg, Project Director
Kellie L. McGiverin-Bohan with Jenna Cluver, Suzzy Mangas, and Jessica Wechter

A Joint Product of the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University, the School of Public and Environmental Affairs at Indiana University, the Indiana Business Research Center at Indiana University's Kelley School of Business, and the Johns Hopkins Center for Civil Society Studies


Click to read the press release for this study or the full report. Note: the full report is a large file (2.8 MB) and you will need a free copy of Adobe Reader to read the documents.

Introduction

For information about the survey on which this report is based, please see Indiana Nonprofit Capacity Survey.

In late 2007, the Indiana Arts Commission (IAC) commissioned us to survey the capacity building and technical assistance needs of Indiana arts and cultural organizations. Since then, the economy has deteriorated rapidly and our report is timelier than we anticipated. We hope it provides valuable information to Indiana policy makers about the arts and cultural organizations that enrich the quality of life in Indiana.

Between August and December of 2008 we surveyed 1,792 Indiana arts and culture organizations that had sought grant funding from the Indiana Arts Commission or its regional partners in 2003-07. Some 385 organizations responded to the survey in full or in part for a response rate of 28 percent (excluding invalid organizations).

The survey asked respondents to identify their three most significant capacity building or technical assistance needs and the best ways to address them. We also asked about several broad categories of capacity building identified in the literature to determine which specific dimensions present the most severe and/or widespread challenges. In addition, we asked respondents to indicate how helpful various types of assistance are in addressing the challenges. Finally, we asked about a variety of other organizational characteristics (see the full survey instrument for a complete set of questions).

Executive Summary

A. Capacity Building Challenges and Assistance.

Capacity Building Challenges. We identified seven dimensions of capacity building prominent in the literature and asked Indiana arts and culture organizations whether indicators of each posed a major, minor, or not a challenge, or was not applicable. Financial resources pose the most challenges, followed by networking and advocacy, marketing, programs and planning, information technology, human resources, and operations and governance.
  • Financial Resources. All indicators pose at least a minor challenge to 60 percent or more of our respondents and most aspects pose a major challenge to half or more.
  • Networking and Advocacy. All indicators pose at least a minor challenge to more than two-thirds of respondents.
  • Marketing. All indicators pose at least a minor challenge for more than 60 percent of respondents.
  • Programs and Planning. All indicators pose at least a minor challenge to about half of the respondents.
  • Information Technology. All indicators are considered at least a minor challenge by more than half the respondents.
  • Human Resources. All indicators are identified as at least a minor challenge by more than half the respondents.
  • Operations and Governance. All indicators pose at least a minor challenge for more than half of respondents.

Helpful Assistance in Addressing Challenges. When asked to assess the helpfulness of various types of assistance, respondents rate multi-year and general overhead funding highest (seen as very helpful by at least 80 percent), followed by endowment funding (71 percent), small targeted grants (61 percent), challenge grants (53 percent), and peer learning (44 percent). Other types of assistance are considered very helpful by no more than a third. The overwhelming majority (about 80 percent) also rate IAC project and operations funding as very helpful, as did 35 percent with regard to IAC regional training and workshops.

The Significance of Organizational Characteristics. No organizational attributes are consistently related to all types of challenges. However, about half the challenges are more severe for organizations that have a primary focus on arts and culture programs, rely heavily on volunteers or have at least one board vacancy. Also, the helpfulness of most types of assistance is significantly related to the number of IT components, use of volunteers, and access to endowment or government grant funding.

B. Nonprofit Views

To assess how nonprofits differentiate between Capacity Building and Technical Assistance, we asked respondents to describe (1) their three most significant capacity building challenges and the best ways to address each and (2) their three most significant technical assistance needs and the best ways to address each.

Extent and Nature of Capacity Building and Technical Assistance Needs. About half report having at least three capacity building needs, while only 25 percent described as many technical assistance needs. Overall, respectively 76 and 69 percent reported at least one need of a given type. As in our previous capacity survey, we find that technical assistance is seen mainly as having to do with technology, while capacity building is applied to broader functional areas.

Three Most Significant Capacity Building Needs. Only a quarter of the 592 descriptions of capacity building needs includes details on the nature and/or direction of organizational changes needed; another half contains only general reference to organizational activities. By contrast, 45 percent of the descriptions reference specific resources needed while another 41 percent identify only general types of resources.

While needs related to financial resources are still the most prominent, when respondents focus on their own three most significant needs, rather than assess all types of capacity building, those related to human resources and operations and governance take on greater prominence.

Most Helpful Ways to Address Capacity Building Needs. When asked to describe the most helpful ways to address their own most significant capacity building needs, some type of funding assistance is included in 40 percent of the descriptions, followed by references to some type of human resources (23 percent), marketing (17 percent), and external assistance (14 percent).

Three Most Significant Technical Assistance Needs. Of 418 major technical assistance needs described, about half include some details on the specific resources that would be needed with another third identifying only a generic resource. About a third include details on the nature and/or direction of organizational changes needed; another two fifths include references to only general organizational components.

Over half of the descriptions include some reference to information technology, followed by items related to operations and governance (15 percent), human resources (14 percent), funding (13 percent) and marketing (10 percent), with two other categories even less prevalent.

Most Helpful Ways to Address Technical Assistance Needs. Our respondents also described the most helpful ways to address each of their three most significant technical assistance needs. Over a quarter included some reference to funding, followed by information technology (23 percent), human resources (20 percent), and some form of external assistance (18 percent).

C. Summary and Recommendations

Based on our analysis, we identify four priorities for the Indiana Arts Commission and other funders in the arts and culture field.

Top Priority: Funding Assistance. More than 80 percent see multi-year funding and general overhead as very helpful. We recommend that Indiana funders give serious consideration to providing this type of support to arts and culture organizations seeking assistance with capacity building needs.

Second Priority: Peer Learning. The opportunity to interact with and learn from peer organizations is seen as very helpful by 44 percent of respondents and at least somewhat helpful by 89 percent. Thus, we recommend that funders and other community leaders help create opportunities for peer interactions and information sharing among managers of arts and culture management organizations.

Third Priority: Joint Activities with Other Organizations. About a third indicate that joint activities with other organizations are very helpful (85 percent find it at least somewhat helpful). We therefore recommend that funders explore ways to facilitate collaborative activities among arts and culture organizations.

Fourth Priority: Support for Technical Assistance. Outside consultants, student interns, and workshops are viewed as very helpful by at least 30 percent of respondents and at least some-what helpful by 75 percent. Thus, we recommend that funders identify and support these types of assistance.

Key Findings

A number of key findings stand out from our analysis.

  • Indiana arts and culture organizations face many capacity challenges. Securing financial resources presents the most severe and widespread challenge followed by networking and advocacy, marketing, programs and planning, information technology, human resources, and operations and governance. Financial resources remains the most prominent type of capacity building need when respondents assess their own three most important needs, while human resources and operations and governance take on greater prominence.
  • Seven of the ten most prevalent major challenges are related to funding. However, almost all capacity items pose at least a minor challenge for most respondents.
  • Indiana arts and culture organizations report that most types of funding would be very helpful in addressing capacity building challenges, especially multi-year and general overhead funding (75 percent); 40 percent say interactions with peers are very helpful and one-third say that about outside consultants or joint activities with other organizations. Almost all say project or operations funding from IAC would be at least somewhat helpful (80 and 79 percent respectively say very helpful).
  • Most Indiana arts and culture providers distinguish between technical assistance and capacity building. The former is associated with information technology, while the latter is related to broader set of functional areas.
  • An organization's degree of focus on arts and culture activities is significantly associated with more severe challenges. This includes enhancing visibility, attracting new members or clients, training/developing the board, and strategic planning.
  • Organizations with board vacancies or that rely extensively on volunteers generally report higher levels of challenges. The significance of other types of characteristics varies depending on the specific challenge involved.
  • Organizations with more formal components in place generally find most types of assistance more helpful, but the relationship is complex. Those with a moderate number of key components tend to find various forms of assistance more helpful, compared to those with only a few or a great many of these elements.
  • Revenue diversification is generally related to challenges, but this relationship doesn't hold across the board. Challenges sometime peak for organizations with a moderate number of sources, and in some cases organizations with no revenues at all report the fewest challenges.
  • Very few challenges vary significantly across state regions. Indianapolis-area organizations report greater challenges in enhancing their visibility and reputations, securing foundation or corporate grant support, and developing comprehensive and interactive websites compared to organizations in other regions. They also see low-cost loans as less helpful.

Appendices

Our report includes several appendices with supplementary information. They include:

  • Appendix A: References
  • Appendix B: Sampling and Survey Procedures
  • Appendix C: Detailed Coding Categories for Open-Ended Questions
  • Appendix D: Descriptive Statistics and Multivariate Analysis
  • Appendix E: Project Publications and Reports

Acknowledgements

If your organization is one of the many Indiana arts and cultural organizations that responded to this survey, THANK YOU - we are very grateful for your participation. Please rest assured that all information from the survey will be kept in the strictest confidentiality.

If you requested a summary of our survey findings, we will shortly send you that information. We will also offer you an individualized report that shows how your organization compares to other similar organizations on key dimensions. The latter is a confidential report and will NOT be shared with anyone else.

As promised, twelve organizations that responded to the survey have had their organization profiled for one month on the Indiana Arts Commission's web page.

We are especially grateful to Lewis Ricci, Executive Director of the Indiana Arts Commission, for inviting us to undertake the survey and to Michelle Anderson, Jayant "Jay" Singh Chauhan, April Blevins, Laura Frank, Sarah Heying, and Rex Van Zant, for their valuable feedback and assistance with the project. We thank Stephanie Cave, Laney Cheney, Helen Liu, Li-Chuan (Tammy) Liu, Rebecca Nannery, and Becky Nesbit for their contributions to the design and analysis. The support and efforts of all of these strengthened this work enormously and we are grateful to them all. Of course, any remaining problems reflect our shortcomings entirely.

In addition to funding from IAC, support for this effort has been provided through the ongoing project on the Indiana Nonprofit Sector: Scope and Community Dimensions. This project, directed by Kirsten Grønbjerg, Efroymson Chair in Philanthropy at the Lilly School of Philanthropy, is funded by the Efroymson Fund at the Indianapolis Foundation (an affiliate of the Central Indiana Community Foundation), the Indiana University Center on Philanthropy's Indiana Research Fund (supported by Lilly Endowment, Inc.), and the School of Public and Environmental Affairs at Indiana University.