10,000 Steps: How Data Can Lead to a Healthier Cultural Sector

woman looking at FitBit

photo credit: iStock.com/Steve Debenport

Guest Blog Post from Beth Tuttle, DataArts President and CEO

At DataArts, our mission is to be a catalyst for data-informed decision-making for arts and cultural nonprofits. We provide a national data collection and management platform, analytics, tools, and educational resources to organizations so executives can make evidence-based decisions about finance, programming, and operations. When DataArts’ partner, the SMU National Center for Arts Research (NCAR), launched the KIPI Dashboard, its new online diagnostic tool, it gave a power-boost to the data we collect through the Cultural Data Profile (CDP). By integrating a variety of datasets with CDP data, they’ve brought a new level of data analytics to the arts and cultural management field.

Working together, CDP data and the NCAR Dashboard are like the FitbitTM of financial health for arts and culture organizations. Fitbit and other similar products offer a wireless sensory technology that collects data on people’s activity levels through a wearable product or mobile app and provides feedback derived from the data in ways that are designed to encourage more healthful behaviors. The tracker determines how many steps a person takes each day and helps establish a daily goal for individuals so that they may become more active over time. A common starting point is a goal of walking 10,000 steps a day. Fitbit also mines the data from millions of active users to provide data-driven encouragement and insights that are relevant to the individual.

The NCAR KIPI Dashboard, which is powered by DataArts’ CDP and other data sources, gives cultural managers access to performance data provided by thousands of cultural nonprofits over the last decade. The data is aggregated and analyzed in relation to nine key areas of organizational performance, and provides a valuable resource to shape strategic, management, and planning decisions. The Dashboard is available for free to cultural nonprofits that complete the CDP, a standardized online form that thousands of cultural organizations use annually to report their financial and programmatic information. By bringing organizational data from the CDP together with other datasets about funding, demographic, and community characteristics, the KIPI Dashboard paints an accurate picture of the distinct ecosystems in which organizations are working. This, in turn, allows for statistically reliable comparisons, or benchmarking, of one organization’s performance to the rest of a comparable set of peer organizations.

Arts, culture, and humanities organizations with annual budgets over $20,000, that have completed the CDP, are currently eligible to use the NCAR Dashboard and their KIPI scores will be automatically calculated using data submitted through the CDP or another participating national service organization. The KIPI score illuminates the impact of key intangible factors, such as good decision-making, artistic excellence, reputation or relationships, that set the performance of certain institutions apart from others, once other mitigating differences in community or organizational characteristics (such as discipline, size, or number of years in business) have been controlled for. Nine indices illustrate where an individual organization’s strengths and challenges lie in relation to its peer group.

Like Fitbit, the interactive Dashboard allows arts and cultural professionals to compare their organization’s performance to statistically similar peers for each index and assess relative measures of health and sustainability. It empowers arts leaders with information to hone strategic decisions, and determine in what areas they seek to improve. For example, longtime CDP participant Manuel Alonso, of La Pena Cultural Center in Berkeley, CA, reports, “We use the NCAR Dashboard to look at our contributed revenue scores. Using our KIPI score, we dive deep into what parameters make up the score, and evaluate how we can course correct. The KIPI scores are incredibly powerful and offer a lot of potential when put into practice. We encourage others to access their scores.”

DataArts is empowering tens of thousands of cultural nonprofits with information and tools for data-driven decision-making. By partnering with NCAR, we seek to help these nonprofits connect the task of data entry to the benefits of data-driven insights for planning and management, and ultimately, drive better organizational outcomes through more informed decision-making. Powering the NCAR Dashboard is just the first step in this direction.

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About Beth Tuttle

Beth Tuttle is President and CEO of the DataArts. She has more than 25 years of experience as an author, strategist, and management leader in the cultural, philanthropic, advocacy, and corporate sectors. She founded METStrategies, a cultural consulting firm, after more than a decade working in the museum field at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, and the Newseum. Beth is co-author of Magnetic: The Art and Science of Engagement. She serves on the Board of Advisors for the National Center for Arts Research at Southern Methodist University.

About DataArts

DataArts is a nonprofit organization that empowers the arts and cultural sector with high-quality data and resources in order to strengthen its vitality, performance, and public impact. The Cultural Data Profile (CDP) is DataArts’ flagship service, which thousands of cultural nonprofits use annually to report their financial and programmatic information. DataArts is a catalyst for data-informed decision-making that results in stronger management for arts and cultural organizations, better-informed philanthropy, and a rich information resource for advocates and researchers. For more information, visit us at www.culturaldata.org.