The OAF Blog

Adapting to the Digital Age - Museums

December 03, 2014

There is a constant flow of information and articles about arts, culture in response to the digital environment we increasingly live in. The New York Times recently published a special section on the Visual Arts, which included an article titled Museums Morph Digitally. The article speaks to decisions now widely being made by museums to allow visitors to use their digital devices, and indeed to encourage their use.  It is part of a transformation of how museums present permanent collections and exhibits, a recognition that people live both in a physical, and a digital world – they embrace a physical experience of seeing a work of art, and share/retain that experience digitally.

Digitizing Collections

As well, we see museums and art galleries making efforts to make their collections more accessible through a process of digitizing all works. Remember that only a very small portion of a museum collection is ever on display at any given time. One of our client funds provides grants to support efforts to make collections more accessible to the local community and to visitors.

Digital technology, the article says, is being used to provide supplemental information about an artwork, and can be delivered directly to a smartphone. Technology is also used for conservation and research. For example, 3D scanning allows online viewers of a physical work to be seen from angles not possible in an image, and sometimes at the institution itself- think of a very large object ( a dinosaur at the ROM, or very large sculpture at an art gallery ). The purpose of technology is to give the viewer more access points into an artwork, as if someone is personally guiding the viewer through the painting or sculpture.

The Opening Up of a Range of Viewing Choices

The old view that putting images online would harm museum attendance has shifted to the opposite – “…when people can see artworks online, it is a taste and they want to see more, often in person..” It is not a shift to a ‘technology’ rules environment… rather creating a range of viewing choices for the visitor…letting the content determine what we do and how we use technology or devices in ‘low tech’ or ‘high tech’ way.

The New York Times article is a good read, and indicative of forward thinking.



Canadian Women in Philanthropy

November 05, 2014

A recent study Time, Treasure and Talent: Canadian Women in Philanthropy by the TD Bank on understanding the financial needs, goals and aspirations of Canadian women also included a focus on philanthropy and charitable giving by Canadian women.

In 2012, the Canada Revenue Agency reported that charitable donations by Canadians reached $8.3 billion. The banks’ report suggests one of the most influential forces in creating change in the charitable sector is the participation of women – as volunteers, leaders, board members and most importantly as donors.

Canadian women give a larger share of their assets to charity than men. TD’s study examines the roles, attitudes and expectations of women involved in charitable work, across all causes.

    • 4% of female tax filers have the resources to make a major charitable gift ( 300,000 to 350,000 women )

    • A majority of Cdn households holding investable assets greater than $500,000 include at least one woman

    • Charitable giving by women has risen from $1.1 billion in 2002 to $3 billion in 2012

    • The study suggests women are more likely to volunteer and donate to a charity than men



Women and Wealth
Women emphasize the importance of creating a long term relationship with a charitable organization, and the study suggests the outlook for generosity of women donors is positive. The study contains detailed data on the profile of ‘women and wealth’ and is a quick, informative read. For many women, a prime motivator to charitable giving is the realization that they and their family have a level of financial security that enables them to want to support a particular cause or charity. Interestingly, the tax considerations of charitable giving are not top of mind when gifting decisions are being made by women.

The study suggests that charitable organizations have the opportunity to raise their profile with women in their communities, and to understand how best to structure information sharing, communications in a way that responds to the motivators for women that are described in the study.



Dialogue on Capitalization

October 08, 2014

South of the border, a US based organization Grantmakers in the Arts undertook over the last four years research on the important topic of the role of capital in an arts organization. This can summarily be described as “having the capital to execute strategy” or perhaps a little more elegantly, “Capitalization is the accumulation and application of resources in support of the achievement of an organization’s mission and goals over time. A well-capitalized organization has the ability to access the cash necessary to cover its short and long term obligations, to weather downturns in its external operating environment, and to take advantage of opportunities to innovate”.

As we all remember, the recession and market decline in 2008 resulted in significant challenges and financial stresses for arts organizations. The original research work undertook to build knowledge about funding practices and how to achieve financial sustainability. The research and reports in great detail are available on the Grantmakers website.


Stimulating Discussion
In 2014, the organization surveyed arts organizations to see how the fruits of the research are being put to work by arts and cultural organizations. If nothing else, the research stimulated many organizations to have a conversation about their overall financial strategy – how to strategically secure and use resources to do their work over time. Key elements of capitalization are beginning to find their way into board/staff discussions, such as:

• The different kinds of capital required by an organization
• Distinguishing between regular revenue sources ( fund current operations/programs ) and capital  ( funds that provide for liquidity, adaptability and durability of the organization )
• Importance of building liquidity for any organization and to create it by saving
• Understanding how the behavior of funders can impact the organization’s finances

Good Business Practice
A key outcome of the original research, which is increasingly accepted by funders, was that good capitalization of an organization begins with the generation of operating surpluses to be used as capital the organization may access to successfully achieve their mission/vision. Past views that an organization generating an operating surplus does not require funding is in decline – the understanding has grown with funders and Boards that achieving surpluses and cash reserves are a critical part of good business practices. Capital should be viewed as a strategic asset that enables an arts and culture organization to take a risk, adapt its mission/vision and change to be financially viable over the long term.

Good Capital Management
Change is occurring to improve the capitalization of arts organizations. The report does say that some Boards are still reluctant to provide change capital or other forms of unrestricted funding, continuing an older view that an arts and culture organization should operate with very low overhead and run at a deficit. Shifting to good capital management practices ( e.g. establishing reserves ) involves all dimensions of an organization – education of board members as well as arts management staff is a continuing need. The work to better understand the role of capitalization will continue. The work of Grantmakers in the Arts is important as it frames the issues, opportunities and possible solutions in a way that is easily understood.

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