When we partnered with Americans for the Arts to conduct an Arts & Economic Prosperity ™ customized economic impact study for Lee County , we were expecting to gain numbers—quantitative benchmarks against which we could eventually measure our progress. We did get numbers, and plenty of them, but the value of the data exceeded all of my expectations. Our community’s Arts & Economic Prosperity story is about funding and advocacy. But above and beyond that, it is about the new ways we found of connecting to one another within the nonprofit arts sector and nationally through the data collection process. It’s about how we learned an entirely new language that has allowed inroads into business and government through the analysis and report. Our community’s story is about rallying the many groups doing important work on the ground, and helping to bring us together through our shared goal of supporting the arts in Lee County. This report belongs to us all. That is why, despite our organization growing from 300 members to 1000, or turning around a deficit into a balanced budget, the customized Arts & Economic Prosperity report is still the piece I am most proud of in my tenure as Executive Director.
The Lee County Alliance for the Arts works hard to support itself, a truth supported by the fact that earned revenue accounts for more than 80 percent of our operating budget. For that reason, we carefully considered our decision to spend those dollars on an economic impact study. But there is no doubt in my mind that the return on investment has more than made up for it. Today, we are still reaping the benefits of our commitment. Before the study, we were not speaking the same language as our business and government leaders. With the economic impact findings, we are now able to prove, with hard numbers and data, that the arts community is a socio-economic driver and an important partner in the economic revitalization of Lee County. We, the nonprofit arts community, are part of the solution. Read the rest of this entry »