What Is Your Institution’s Economic Impact?
Have you ever collected data to calculate the economic impact of your institution in the local or regional community? Now, with three figures—annual budget, population, and attendance, you have a tool to justify continuing or additional support. Americans for the Arts have built a free, simple-to-use online calculator that can help you with both internal and external discussions of the critical role your institution plays. Economic impact arguments are important to convince donors, community leaders, grantors, and legislators that the funding they provide makes a significant and positive difference for the community your institution serves.
This kind of analysis dovetails well with Museum Advocacy Day, coming up soon on February 25-26. The American Association for State and Local History has published some important suggestions for ways to participate in the event and advocate for cultural heritage. Even if you can not attend the Washington, D.C. event and even if you are not a member of AASLH or the American Alliance of Museums, you can still help out by contributing data about your institution and working to convince legislators and other local leaders about museums’ economic impact. Highlights from AAM’s “Economic Impact Statement” include:
- Cultural tourism comprises one of the most popular and significant segments of the travel industry, accounting for over 23% of all domestic trips. Moreover, visitors to historic sites and cultural attractions, including museums, stay 53% longer and spend 36% more money than other kinds of tourists.
- According to research cited by the U.S. Conference of Mayors, “the nonprofit arts and culture industry generates over $166 billion in economic activity annually, supports over 5.7 million full time jobs, and returns over $12 billion in federal income taxes annually. Governments which support the arts on average see a return on investment of over $7 in taxes for every $1 that the government appropriates.”
AASLH’s “Educational Impact Statement” (download at #10 here) is another site for contributing useful data from your institution. The organization argues forcefully that “museums are essential partners in education.” A few selections:
- Museums receive more than 90 million visits each year from students in school groups and provide more than 18 million instructional hours for educational programs (IMLS study).
- Museums tailor educational programs to a wide range of instructional topics, often in coordination with state and local curriculum standards (IMLS study).
- Teachers, students, and researchers benefit from access to trustworthy information through online collections and exhibits, although most museums need more help in developing their digital collections to meet this need.
- Americans view museums as one of the most important resources for educating our children and as one of the most trustworthy sources of objective information. According to a study by Indiana University, museums are considered a more reliable source of historical information than books, teachers, or even personal accounts by grandparents or other relatives.
What arguments work in your community to gain or continue support for your institution? Please share!