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“I don’t want to just be a check writer, I want to be authentically engaged,” she said. “For organizations that have been doing things the same way for so long, it’s a hard transition. … Rather than the same small group of individuals they’ve relied on for so many years, they have to go after multiple sources and learn how to attract younger donors.”
Giving goes corporate
Do the larger institutions who received million-dollar gifts now stand to lose the most?
“They will have to make sure their appeal is broad enough so they can build a larger base,” Judson Dayton said. “They’ll also have to work harder. It takes a lot of people giving $500 to make up for those multimillion gifts, which fewer and fewer people are capable of giving.”
Corporations are, however. The Twin Cities is home to several that have steadily increased arts donations, in part because the Five Percent Club — a giveback fund launched in the 1970s by Ken Dayton — set a strong precedent. Also, a thriving arts scene attracts top employee talent.
Since 2002, the Dayton-founded Target Corp. has been the top overall arts contributor in Minnesota, giving more than $33.2 million in 2011, up from $20 million in 2001. General Mills, US Bank and Travelers Corp. are consistently among the top 10 arts contributors, according to the Minnesota Council on Foundations.
Funding in the Twin Cities reflects a national shift toward programs that connect the arts with social services, health and economic development, said Janet Brown, president of the Seattle-based consulting group Grantmakers in the Arts. But while corporate support for the arts has declined nationally, Minnesota companies continue to be strong backers, she said.
Corporate dollars, however, often come with strings attached. “Just as corporations are now being held more accountable to stockholders than individual leaders, there’s a much higher expectation of results you can see and count,” said Artspace director Kelley Lindquist, adding that many nonprofits now replace the word “gift” with “investment” when courting donors.
Minnesota’s Legacy Fund has infused nearly $200 million into the cultural sector in the past four years, but those grants are spread more thinly, and often aimed at nontraditional arts programs.
More donors, smaller gifts
Perhaps no local arts institution has benefited more from family largesse than the MIA.
Individual philanthropy remains a bigger source of the museum’s income than corporate grants, said advancement director Julianne Amendola, “but we’ve had to pitch a bigger tent to get a higher percentage of our audience giving than before.”
Major arts organizations are diversifying their boards as well, added Amendola. The ability to make substantial personal contributions is still a prerequisite, but more leaders are coming from global professional backgrounds, such as Best Buy CEO Hubert Joly, the French-born executive who is now the MIA’s board chair
The days when collecting windfalls from a handful of loyal backers was the norm may never return, but that’s not necessarily bad news, said Vickie Benson, arts program director for the McKnight Foundation, founded by 3M heirs and one of Minnesota’s top arts funders.
“People like Sage Cowles paved the path for others to contribute, and no one can ever replace her,” she said. “But a broader base — more people contributing to a greater number of arts groups — is healthy for the ecosystem.”
Kristin Tillotson • 612-673-7046