Building Capacity for Audience Research:
Reflections on the Audience Research Collaborative

In 2012, the Performing Arts Program of the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation extended an invitation to a group of its grantees to participate in a multi-year program to build capacity for audience research. Over a period of two and a half years, a WolfBrown team led by Rebecca Ratzkin provided customized technical assistance to 46 grantees. Building Capacity for Audience Research candidly distills lessons learned from the ARC initiative for other funders who'd contemplate investing in the capacity of their grantees to gather and interpret audience data.

The report is organized thematically:

  • Foreword by John McGuirk, director, Performing Arts Program, The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation
  • Introduction and Context – argues that today's accountability environment drives nonprofits and their funders to seek out more and more data
  • Research Capacity: To Build or Not to Build? – frames key questions about the benefits and challenges of capacity building
  • Assessing Organizational Readiness for Research T.A. – shares lessons learned from the intake process
  • Establishing a Community of Practice – discusses approaches to cohort learning
  • Promoting a Culture of Learning – focuses on organizational learning, and the associated challenges and successes
  • The Value and Challenges of Collecting Demographic Data – raises issues of cultural competence in audience research and the challenge of collecting standardized demographic data
  • Parting Reflections – summarizes lessons learned
  • Coda: Hewlett's Response to Demographic Results – reflections from Hewlett staff on demographic data in the context of the foundation's commitment to supporting the Bay Area's diverse populations