In 2008, The San Francisco Foundation and East Bay Community Foundation commissioned Helicon Collaborative and WolfBrown to conduct a psychographic study of donors to the Fund for Artists (FFA) Matching Commissions program, a successful matching grant program for individual artists and small arts groups to raise funds from individuals. Two of the main objectives of the study were to understand the underlying motivations of the FFA donors and to see if FFA donors were different than donors to other Bay Area arts institutions.

Research methods included an in-depth interviewing exercise with FFA grantees and donors, followed by an extensive effort to survey FFA donors as well as donors to other Bay Area cultural institutions. The in-depth interviews consisted of two two-day cycles with FFA donors. FFA grantees participated in a training session on interviewing techniques, and then worked in teams to interview donors. A total of 31 project leaders participated, including individual artists, staff, and board members of small and mid-sized arts organizations. Overall, this interview data suggested that giving is often precipitated by the making of one or more “connection points” (e.g. a personal relationship, a “passion” connection, a value connection, and a cultural or community connection). Interviews also generated important input into the subsequent donor survey protocol design, as well qualitative context for survey findings. As one of the goals of the study was to discover what differences exist between FFA donors and donors to large arts institutions, other San Francisco arts programs were also invited to participate in the study. Seventeen Bay Area arts organizations (e.g. American Conservatory Theatre, Asian Art Museum, Berkeley Repertory Theatre, Center for Asian American Media, CounterPULSE, Fine Arts Museums of SF, SFMOMA, Alonzo King’s LINES Ballet, Oakland East Bay Symphony, Oakland Museum of California, SF Ballet, SF Film Society, SF Opera, SF Performances, SF Symphony, SFJAZZ, Yerba Buena Center for Arts) agreed to provide a sample of approximately 500 donors. When combined with the FAA donors, three analysis groups were established for comparison: FFA Donors, Donors to Mid-Sized/Diverse/Contemporary Arts Groups, and Donors to Large-Budget Arts Groups. The survey was administered both online and via mail. Altogether, 349 completed surveys were returned from FFA donors, representing an overall response rate of 18%. The response rates for the other two cohorts were significantly higher: Donors to Mid-Sized (27%) and Donors to Large-Budget (38%).

Factor analysis identified five ‘value and interest factors’ based on a consolidation of 23 different variables. Additionally, a cluster analysis was performed on a large group of variables including giving behaviors, preferred levels of communication and desired recognition, values and philanthropic interests. Analysis revealed a five segment donor model: Values-Driven Intrinsics (25%), Community Altruists (22%), Progressive Artist Champions (19%), High-Touch Social Givers (17%), and Supportive Audiences (17%). FFA donors, although similar to donors in mid-sized arts organizations, were different than donors to large cultural institutions in important ways: FAA donors preferred to have a personal connection to the artist or performer whom they were supporting and were attracted to projects that highlighted individual artists, their community, and new works. These findings overall underline that organizations and artists need to spend time talking to donors; understanding donors’ interests, values, and relationships to communities and arts organizations enables the greatest impact.

Consultants: Alan Brown, Rebecca Ratzkin
Year Complete: 2010