The most valuable research tool you’re not using… yet

Jill Robinson

Guest post by Jill Robinson, President and CEO of TRG Arts

“How do we stack up?”

Everyone is curious about how their arts organization compares with others like them. There’s really not been a good place to find that information, though.

Until now.

Recently, our partners at the National Center for Arts Research launched the NCAR Dashboard. It uses data from DataArts (formerly the Cultural Data Project) to explore how organizations from a variety of sizes and artistic disciplines perform on a variety of standardized financial and operational indicators, called KIPI’s. Even better, it allows you to compare your organization to others in its own size category and artistic genre.

The NCAR Dashboard shows you at a glance how your organization performs compared to other organizations in its size category and artistic genre.

The benchmarking ability of the dashboard is enormous. Imagine how you’d plan and act differently if you could gauge how well your organization engages your market, how efficiently it operates, and how financially sound it is in comparison to peer organizations. The NCAR Dashboard allows you to see how your organization performed each year on metrics like the following:

  • Ratio of earned revenue
  • Percentage of revenue from subscribers and members
  • Working capital
  • Community engagement
  • Return on marketing

These are metrics that TRG Arts has seen having enormous impact on organizational health when managers track and act upon them. We often say “what can be measured can be managed.” I can see applications for both organization-wide and departmental strategic planning, multi-year business planning, and market research.

Besides giving you a general report card in dashboard format, the KIPI dashboard goes in depth on each score, telling you how your organization has trended over time and explaining how the metric is calculated.


What’s especially powerful is that it calculates how your organization would need to change its numbers in order to impact each score. For example, the “Working Capital” KIPI is calculated by dividing unrestricted current liabilities by unrestricted current assets. The dashboard calculates how much your organization would need to increase assets or decrease liabilities in order to outperform your peer organizations.

This kind of tool has never been available to our sector; every arts and cultural institution should be aware of and using it.  And there’s a bonus: if your organization has provided data to DataArts (formerly the Cultural Data Project), your information is already loaded and available. You can visit the demo site to see how it works, or log in here.


Jill Robinson is President and CEO of TRG Arts, an international data-driven consulting firm dedicated to creating sustainable arts and cultural organizations. Under Jill’s leadership, TRG has translated its ongoing study of arts consumer transactions into knowledge that achieves improved revenue results for clients and that serves as a resource to the industry at-large. Jill has expanded the scope of TRG services to all arts genres throughout the United States, into Canada and abroad to Australia and the United Kingdom.

A frequent panelist and session leader at arts conferences throughout North America, Jill also helps inform the field through TRG's webinars, summits, and as a blogger on Analysis from TRG Arts. Jill serves on the board of the National Center for Arts Research and the Cultural Office of the Pikes Peak Region (COPPeR).