As we begin another busy dance season, one that promises more skillful stunts than any summer action film, I thought it would be fun to talk about abundance versus scarcity. Understanding these two opposites is not difficult. In fact we deal with these resource-based nouns everyday. The challenge for me is when I find myself thinking in more of a scarcity mode than one of abundance. Especially when I am trying to imagine a new program that will bring funds to dancers and choreographers. Do you think about the world in one camp or another? I’m an abundance person and I believe it promises to give us all what we need to accomplish the small and big dreams in our lives, allowing us to make dance happen in a variety of complex and enriching forms. Scarcity, if you will allow me to posit, is filled with negativity that does not allow us to find the resources needed to fulfill any of our life dreams. If you believe that there is never enough support to accomplish any of your aspirations then this will come true. But, if you are willing to look at abundance as a mindset, one that will help manifest any and all that you aspire to accomplish, then might this not be a more promising place to return?
Continuing this line of thought, what if I were to tell you that all that you need to make dances is already there, just waiting for you to ask for it? Would you label me a new-age zealot? Would you say that I’m a Pollyanna that has no reasonable grip on the economic realities of 2007? Would you label me downright crazy? Since I’ve been know to dress up in women’s clothes, for fun and money, I will definitely wear and embrace the Pollyanna title—but crazy I’m not.
I’m also very interested in embracing the zealot title. We need more zealots in our field. After all, dance is for me a religious experience. It transports me to another realm, while connecting me to community. I sit in the theater, a studio, or even an out-of-the-imagination-fashioned site–specific performance space, ready to be preached to—hoping for a goose-pimply epiphany that gives me relief and solace from the day-to-day doldrums that frequently strike.
Sorry, I got a bit sidetracked. Let’s get back to the idea of “everything-you-need-is-there.” I believe that we are living in a time of abundance. Along with our daily care—food, clothing, housing—and worldly and electronic lifestyles, there are a multitude of examples of our bountiful earthly resources. In this time and with these resources, we can believe in and support a variety of vital causes and initiatives. We can, it seems, in one single night raise hundreds of millions of dollars for disaster relief, or HIV/AIDS education/prevention, or support a candidate for office. So I think it is fair to say and agree that there is plenty of money out there—for both the arts and other charitable causes. As an example, the third largest gift to charity in the United States comes from local philanthropists Bernard & Barbro Osher ($723.2 million to the Bernard Osher Foundation). This same foundation’s support can be seen in programs and on buildings as a major donor for all the arts. Bless them.
To bring this back to the arts and specifically dance, by all accounts there is money—and we’ll get to that—lots of green thingies, that make it possible for us to bring dance to the stage. As our field continues to grow, and it is by leaps, by bounds, we are seeing an increase in donations, grants—foundation and government, corporate support, and volunteer time that support all charitable causes including dance-making. Here are some inspiring facts from the National Philanthropic Trust and the Americans for the Arts websites:
“Nationally, the nonprofit arts and culture industry generates $166.2 billion in economic activity every year—$63.1 billion in spending by organizations and an additional $103.1 billion in event-related spending by their audiences.” These statistics are taken from the recent Arts & Economic Prosperity III: The Economic Impact of Nonprofit Arts and Culture Organizations and Their Audiences 15 which documents the key role played by the nonprofit arts and culture industry in strengthening our nation’s economy. You can access this study by going to the Americans for Arts website: www.artsusa.org. When you are on their home page be sure to check out the “ART Ask For More” section—great language and inspiring.
The $166.2 billion in total economic activity has a significant national impact, generating the following:
• 5.7 million full-time equivalent jobs
• $104.2 billion in household income
• $7.9 billion in local government tax revenues
• $9.1 billion in state government tax revenues
• $12.6 billion in federal income tax revenues
In terms of charitable giving, non-profit activity, and volunteering, I find the following statistics heartening:
• 89 percent of households give.1
• The average annual contribution for contributors is $1,620.1
• According to Giving USA, American giving reach a record high in 2006, with donations totaling $295-billion, an increase of 1 percent after inflation.2,9
• Giving to the arts and education saw donations rise more than 6 percent in 2006.2,9
• It is estimated that between $6.6 trillion to $27.4 trillion in charitable bequests will be made between 1998-2052.3
• It is estimated total charitable contributions will total between $21.2 to $55.4 trillion in between 1998-2052.3
• Corporate foundations gave $4.2 billion in 2006 and 57% expect to give more in 2007.14
• Corporate giving, including grants from corporate foundations, increased substantially by 18.5 percent, to $13.8 billion.9
• Giving by the nation’s 2,600 grant making corporate foundations grew an estimated 6 percent in 2006 to a record 4.2 billion.14
• 57 percent of corporate foundations expect to increase their giving in 2007. 14
• Electronic gifts to the 187 organizations that provided figures for 2005 and 2006 grew by 37 percent, from $880.7 million to $1.2 billion, and eighty-five of those groups saw online gifts grow by more than 50 percent.9
• In 2006, 83 percent of total contributions came from donations from individuals, including bequests.2
• The number of U.S. non-profits has doubled in the past five years.10
• The number of family foundations has increased 60% in the past six years.10
• 55 percent of Americans volunteer.6
• 83.9 million American adults volunteer, representing the equivalent of over 9 million full-time employees at a value of $239 billion.1
Is your head swimming? Are you inspired to go out and ask for additional support from friends, colleagues, businesses, institutions and private foundations? I hope so. There is a myth that abounds in the dance community. I’ve heard it repeated many times: “There is less money now for the arts than there was 10 or 20 years ago.” I think the statistics you’ve read will debunk this myth because we know there is, more than ever before, more money for the arts. As you can see from the facts and figures complied by the National Philanthropic Trust and Americans for Arts, we have seen a consistent increase in all giving. And the really good news is that this charitable giving will continue to increase. As will the number of artists, creating new works and new programs that will be looking for support. The paradox is that there are more artists vying for funding so there will always be a perceived, and felt, inequity. Yet, the more dance artists there are performing their work, creating new projects, spaces, and institutions, this will support a cycle of solid philanthropy. Long live abundance.
So, the next time you get one of the dreaded letters stating “we regret to inform you that we are not able to support your project at this time,” shed a tear, stomp your feet and let the mourning last no more than a day. Then I want you to scream a war cry, make a dance of abundance in your office (all this takes is improvising some dance moves à la Katherine Dunham, Isadora Duncan or some other icon of your choice) and then go on out and ask for more money. I bet you will find some.
Lest you think that this was all about other peoples’ money and giving practices, I would like to request support. The first simple rule of fundraising and abundance is that if you don’t ask for support, you won’t receive anything. And, lead by example. Are you giving as much as you can, either in a monetary donation or of your time? If your answer is “I could give more” then please help with a donation to the Parachute Fund. Thank you so much for your help.