It is no surprise to anyone working in the arts and culture sector that arts organizations all around the world are consistently challenged with the task of securing new and diverse sources of funding in order to keep their lights on while fulfilling their artistic mandates. Businesses receive hundreds of requests every week from the arts sector.
Although many decision-makers in the corporate world recognize the value of the arts in the community, they are inundated with cookie-cutter, standard template proposals which are primarily focused on the needs of the arts organization, and not on how they can partner in a creative way with the businesses they are approaching.
My own conversations with executives from the corporate sector across Canada reveal that businesses which are considering supporting the arts expect to receive innovative sponsorship proposals. They are looking for creative synergies which stand apart from the pile of requests they receive every day. They expect a well-researched, professional business approach demonstrating a solid return on investment for their company, whether this means engaging their clients and employees at an event, reaching new audiences, or raising the profile of their company by being aligned with an innovative arts organization or project.
Logo recognition and tickets to events are a given, but in terms of sponsorship benefits, they are standard practice and old news. Businesses are looking for the imaginative, clever new idea which will bring them recognition as a supporter of the arts.
In Canada, our answer to these challenges is artsVest™, a unique program of Business for the Arts which combines in-depth training in sponsorship development with a matching incentive grant and a toolkit for securing and sustaining successful new partnerships, and brings local arts and businesses together at special events.
The program is open to arts communities—municipalities and provinces—across Canada which have demonstrated solid cultural investment plans and the engagement of every level of government, arts councils, business associations, and private funders. Our goal is ultimately to leave each artsVest community after the program is completed with the tools to build strong partnerships between the arts and business sectors which will be sustainable well into the future.
The artsVest program was first piloted in Oakville, Ontario in 2002, followed by an extensive pilot and expansion to 21 other municipalities in Ontario, thanks to a grant from provincial funders the Ontario Trillium Foundation and the Ministry of Ontario.
We have now expanded the program nationally, thanks to a $1.6 million (CDN) federal grant from Canadian Heritage in 2011, which was subsequently matched by other provinces and cities. Business for the Arts is now entering the second year of this national roll-out of the program. artsVest is currently operating in five communities in the province of Ontario, in the province of Saskatchewan, and in the cities of Calgary, Winnipeg, and Vancouver.
It is estimated that from 2011–2013 artsVest will generate approximately $3.9 million in private sector sponsorship and result in an influx of approximately $6 million to the cultural economy. It will provide 40 free, full-day sponsorship training workshops to approximately 1,000 arts and culture organizations and will create synergistic new partnerships between an estimated 750 local businesses and 280 arts groups across the country.
To find out more about Business for the Arts’ artsVest program and some of the new partnerships which it has helped to develop, watch this video:
(Editor’s Note: Join Laura at the Americans for the Arts Annual Convention in San Antonio for the Private-Sector Funding in the New Normal session to hear more of the individual success stories of the artsVest program.)