Welcome to the NCAR Report, in which we share evidence-based insights into the health of US arts and cultural organizations.  There is no one-size-fits-all performance measure or objective for such a diverse field, only answers to relevant questions that provide an array of useful measures and vantage points.  Some anomalies also point to additional questions to explore.  We care about numbers, not for their own sake, but because we believe that healthier arts and cultural organizations will have more resources to invest in artistic and cultural offerings and in community engagement.

All feedback, questions and comments are welcome, so please let us hear from you!

We organize the report into six broad sections.   

See also:

Download NCAR's Volume Two Report (PDF)

See the participating organizations broken down by Sector and Size

1. Modeling the Arts & Culture Ecosystem

We conceptualize the arts and culture ecosystem as a set of interdependent relationships among individual artists, arts organizations, their communities and audiences, and the cultural policies that influence the production and consumption of arts and culture.  This section documents our data sources and details both how we organize arts & culture organizations into 11 arts sectors and how we organize them by size.  We also provide details on how we created the spatial model that mathematically models the distances between arts & cultural organizations and their communities and audiences.    

2. Introducing Our Arts & Culture Performance Indices

This section describes how we developed our arts and culture performance indices.  In total, we have identified 184 performance indices to examine over time.  Each index provides insight into the financial, operational, and engagement health of an arts and culture organization.  We currently have data to examine 128 indices, and we know what data we need to work towards gathering in order to answer the rest. These performance indices fall into 9 general areas: Contributed Revenue, Earned Revenue, Expenses, Marketing Impact, Bottom Line, Balance Sheet, Community Engagement, Program Activity, and Staffing.  This edition includes insights on trends as well as updates on seven of the 128 performance indices key to assessing organizational health, all related to earned revenue, marketing and engagement. We present many as comparative measures (e.g., program revenue per attendee and marketing expenses per attendee). Edition 4 will focus on metrics related to contributed revenue and Edition 5 will examine expenses, staffing bottom line, and capital structure.

3. Reporting on Average Performance

For each of the indices, we report and provide highlights on the most recent year’s results for: 1) the average for all arts and cultural organizations, 2) the average by arts and cultural sector, and 3) the average by organizational size (i.e., total operating budget). In each case we report the index average (a ratio) as well as the average for its component parts: the numerator and denominator of the index (each a general number). We then report the index average by geographic market cluster and provide some additional traits of these clusters. For those who want to see what 4-year trends were for the same set of organizations over time, we offer trends by sector, by size, by sector and size, and by geography.

4. What Drives Performance

We don’t want to only report on ‘what performance was,’ we want to dig deeper to see what drives performance on every measure.  Combining organizational data with our spatial model, we examine a host of predictors of performance for the numerators and denominators used in the indices.  These predictors include the organizational activities, practices and decisions that impact performance.  But arts and cultural organizations don’t operate in a vacuum, they operate in communities.  So, we use the spatial model to explore community and cultural policy factors that positively or negatively impact performance.    

5. Identifying High Performance and Key Intangible Performance Indicators (KIPIs)

The same models that examine what Arts & Culture Ecosystem factors predict performance also produce Key Intangible Performance Indicators (KIPIs) that estimate the intellectual capital – i.e., unobservable managerial and artistic expertise – that drives organizational performance on each index. 

6. Where We Go From Here

Going forward, we will integrate new data as they become available, continue to refine our analytic techniques, and examine the additional indices that you are most interested in.