The first time I donated to the arts, it was through my university. DePauw had a really amazing music school and visual arts programs, so it seemed fairly obvious to me to earmark the small donation for use by the arts.
Obvious might be the wrong word here, because I was also the only one of my friends who, even for my limited involvement with the arts, had actually allocated the donation. I still find, my friends and I take advantage of free classical concerts, lectures or outreach, and don’t ever follow-up with a monetary donation or in-kind support. So what gives?
This seems to me like a fairly big challenge, and also an incredibly important one for all art and culture institutions, because donor bases for the arts are aging. My generation is going to be even more important to hook as donors now, rather than later.
It’s hard to, at twenty-something, make a decision and prioritize your giving. We are being asked to manage our own budgets and to give to other organizations (i.e.: our universities, possibly our Greek organizations, groups we were involved in early on and our office foundations). We want to give, but our priorities and interests are changing often. In the battle for our few spare charitable dollars, how can we be convinced?
Would newer concerts, newer venues or artist meet-and-greet after a performance make the difference building the personal connection? Is it the one really great experience that hooks us? I’ve seen a few young-professional groups that act more as social organizations that may be successful, but it all comes back to the innovation and personal connection aspect of development.
Part of me also wonders about how much of the fundraising in question is a need for education: I’d venture to guess a fair amount of my peers don’t know the difference between a Bach or Chopin piece, nor do they really care that they don’t know.
Another concern for the twenty-something is clearly ticket costs. When we go to a free concert, the last thing we consider is the expense it takes to put together the concert, nor is the overhead cost of running a musical organization at the forefront of our minds when we’re listening to live music. Even $25 feels like a lot when you’re on a budget and can get music for free online. When tickets are often much higher than $25, the arts, and classical music within that, become more about a special treat-- a night out—rather than a complete social, educational opportunity or investment in the arts. Making the bridge from “special” to “important” is another challenge I see, and one I really don’t know how to solve, and I wonder how my peers would answer it.
So what gets us to give? I’m not sure if it is a combination of education and special events for young people, or actually explaining expenses. The one great thing about artists, performers and musicians, is that there is much creativity to be had. How can we use that creativity to convince me and my generation that this is worthwhile?