The inaugural NCAR Report shares evidence-based insights from our first exploration into the health of U.S. arts and cultural organizations.  There is no one-size-fits-all performance measure or objective for such a diverse field, only answers to relevant questions that provide an array of useful measures and vantage points.  Some anomalies also point to additional questions to explore. 

We organized the report into six broad sections:

1. Modeling the Arts & Culture Ecosystem

We conceptualize the arts and culture ecosystem as a set of interdependent relationships among individual artists, arts organizations, their communities and audiences, and the cultural policies that influence the production and consumption of arts and culture.  This section documents our data sources and how we organize arts & culture organizations into 11 arts sectors.  We also provide details on how we created the spatial model that mathematically captures the relationships between arts & culture organizations and their communities and audiences.

2. Introducing Our Arts & Culture Performance Indices

This section describes how we developed our arts and culture performance indices.  In total, we have identified 184 performance indices to examine over time.  Each index provides insight into the financial, operational, and engagement health of an arts and culture organization.  We currently have data to examine 128 indices, and we know what data we need to work towards gathering in order to examine the rest. These performance indices fall into 9 general areas: Contributed Revenue, Earned Revenue, Expenses, Marketing Impact, Bottom Line, Balance Sheet, Community Engagement, Program Activity, and Staffing.  In this first report we take a deep dive on 8 of the 128 indices, one for each of the first 8 general areas listed above.   We will tackle new sets of questions and indices in future reports.

3. Reporting on Average Performance

For each of the 8 indices, we report on the 2012 results for: 1) the average for all arts and cultural organizations, 2) the average by arts and cultural sector, and 3) the average by organizational size (i.e., total operating budget).  In each case we report the index average (a ratio) as well as the average for its component parts: the numerator and denominator of the index (each a general number).  We then report the index average by geographic market cluster and provide some additional traits of these clusters.  For those who want to know more, we provide the index averages for 2008, 2009, 2010, and 2011.

4. What Drives Performance

We don’t want to only report on ‘what performance was’, we want to dig deeper to see what drives performance on every measure.  Combining organizational data with our spatial model, we examine a host of predictors of performance for the numerators and denominators used in the indices.  These predictors include the organizational activities, practices and decisions that impact performance.  But arts and cultural organizations don’t operate in a vacuum.  They operate in communities so we use the spatial model to explore community and cultural policy factors that positively or negatively impact performance.

5. Identifying High Performance and Key Intangible Performance Indicators (KIPIs)

The same models that we used to tell what Arts & Culture Ecosystem factors predict performance also produce Key Intangible Performance Indicators (KIPIs) that estimate the intellectual capital – i.e., difficult-to-measure managerial and artistic expertise – that drives organizational performance on each index.

6. Where We Go From Here

Going forward, we will integrate new data as it becomes available, continue to refine our analytic techniques, and examine the additional indices that you are most interested in.  We also are working with IBM to bring you an online dashboard that will provide you with your organization’s individual KIPI scores