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Study - Rethinking Cultural Philanthropy in Montréal: Relationships and Community

Sustaining arts organizations through committed individual philanthropy

Tuesday September 29, 2020

Montréal, September 29, 2020 – Montréal arts organizations should turn to citizens who know and appreciate their work to build a community of donors. That is one of the main recommendations in a study released today by the Conseil des arts de Montréal (CAM) and HEC Montréal. Rethinking Cultural Philanthropy in Montréal: Relationships and Community gives voice to the arts community's perspective and proposes a shift towards a culture of “relational philanthropy.” This approach has special resonance in the current crisis, which has clearly shown the public’s attachment to local arts organizations.

Building relational philanthropy

It is often assumed that benefit events are core to fundraising. However, such events can entail financial risk and cause burnout in organizations. The study by Wendy Reid, professor of management at HEC Montréal, recommends evolving the arts’ fundraising model towards relational philanthropy, an approach based on forming long-term relationships with individual Montreal citizens. The approach targets donors who are close to the organization and are attached to its mission. To develop relational philanthropy, organizations need to involve their staff, board members, artists, cultural workers, subscribers, spectators, as well as members and visitors.

Dr. Reid suggests that major arts organizations with many members or subscribers should take the lead in changing the philanthropic culture in Montreal. “Organizations need to evolve their culture to link fundraising to their artistic purpose,” she says. “The Opéra de Montréal and the Musée d'art contemporain de Montréal are doing this.” Smaller organizations, such as Zab Maboungou/Compagnie Danse Nyata Nyata and Je suis Julio, that don’t have a large pool of members or subscribers, have successfully involved their immediate circle in their donor community, a strategy that has been called “philanthropie de village”.


Diversifying revenue streams and building skills

“In the first months of the pandemic, we found that growing numbers of spectators were prepared to make a philanthropic commitment to Montréal arts organizations,” says Wendy Reid. “For example, some turned ticket purchases into donations and others responded positively to COVID-related fundraising campaigns. We believe that relational philanthropy can help Montréal arts organizations diversify their funding sources by increasing the proportion of individual donations.”

For more than 10 years, the Conseil des arts de Montréal has been working to support the development and professionalization of a culture of arts philanthropy. “We will continue our support initiatives and partnerships to help build fundraising knowledge and skills,” says Nathalie Maillé, Executive Director of the Conseil des arts de Montréal. “These structural initiatives will help strengthen relational philanthropy and secure the future of projects and jobs in the cultural sector.”


Five key recommendations

The report recommends five key actions to accelerate the development of a culture of relational philanthropy in arts organizations:

  1. Actively evolve relationships with those close to the organization’s art and mission to produce committed donors and board members.
  2. Rely less on business network reciprocity and risky fundraising events.
  3. Attract donations from cultural workers and artists who want to give back to the arts community.
  4. Train arts professionals as philanthropy professionals to ensure loyalty to the field and respectful integration of philanthropy inside arts organizations.
  5. Develop databases to support client relationships in which ticketing and donor-focused data work together.

This qualitative study is based on more than 50 case studies, a hundred interviews within arts organizations of varying sizes and disciplines, as well as other studies on cultural philanthropy and data from Canada Revenue Agency, Revenu Québec and the Conseil des arts de Montréal. The complete study is available here.


By and for the community

At the launch of the study, a panel of arts managers reflected on its insights and application to the milieu. The exchange will continue on October 7 in an online event organized by Les Conversations philanthropiques en culture, an organization that brings together cultural professionals to discuss philanthropy in Montréal and Québec. More details.


About the Conseil des arts de Montréal

A dynamic partner of professional artistic creativity in Montréal, the Conseil des arts de Montréal identifies, supports and recognizes excellence in the creation, production and presentation of artistic endeavours. Through its initiatives, the Conseil encourages new thinking, discovery and daring at the heart of Montréal’s artistic landscape. Since 1956, the Conseil des arts de Montréal has been an influential player in the development of “Montréal, Cultural Metropolis.”


About HEC Montréal

HEC Montréal is an internationally renowned business school, with some 14,000 students, and trains more than 7,000 executives and managers every year. The School holds many prestigious accreditations, and offers over 100 programs of study from the bachelor’s to doctoral levels. It is one of the most active business schools in Canada in terms of research, thanks to 23 research and knowledge transfer units and 31 research chairs, including 7 Canada Research Chairs and 1 industrial chair. With a faculty of 293, HEC Montréal offers programs in several languages and attracts students from 156 countries. Since its founding in 1907, the School has trained more than 91,000 students in all fields of management.


Source: Conseil des arts de Montréal and HEC Montréal

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