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Diversity of Donors

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what motivates donors to give to the arts, and how their giving patterns relate to their core values – both inside and outside of the arts. In partnership with Helicon Collaborative, we are currently working on a study on donor motivations and values for The San Francisco Foundation (TSFF) and East Bay Community Foundation (EBCF), and have recently been engaged to survey San Francisco Symphony donors. As part of this TSFF/EBCF study, we facilitated an intensive donor interviewing exercise with a number of small community arts groups and individual artists who are recipients of matching funds through the Fund For Artists initiative, a program of both foundations. Key learnings from these interviews shed light on the deep meaning that small gifts hold for many donors, when they believe that their gift makes a difference. It was also interesting to note that the donors’ most important values often lie outside of the arts (e.g., social justice, the environment), and that arts projects that tap into these value systems were successful in raising funds from individuals who do not normally support the arts. Perhaps by stepping back to ask the bigger questions about what is important to donors, we can better understand the diversity and breadth of their interests and communicate with them more effectively. The report from this study will be released at the end of the year.

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