Jason Rapp

COVID-19 survey reveals ‘frightening situation’ for creativity, culture

Sectors surviving on emergency funding, more needed


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

COLUMBIA, S.C. – A recent survey of South Carolina nonprofit organizations revealed more than half serving in the creative and cultural sector lacked the funding to continue operations—and still face potential closure—without emergency funding for a sector that adds $9.7 billion to the state economy.

Together SC, in partnership with a mix of foundations and funders from across the state, commissioned a late-winter survey of non-profit groups served by those funders to determine their financial health considering COVID-19. The South Carolina Arts Commission (SCAC) and Lowcountry-based Gaylord and Dorothy Donnelley Foundation (GDDF) provided questions geared toward arts, culture, and the humanities non-profits they serve.

The survey was designed, collected, analyzed, and reported by Kahle Strategic Insights Managing Director Robert W. Kahle, Ph.D. with Gloria Roderick, MPA.

Key findings

  • Statewide, the outlook is bleak, with 48% of creative and cultural (arts, culture, and humanities) survey respondents claiming they can operate for six months at most without additional revenue.
  • Job losses at responding organizations reached 16% from March 2020 to March 2021.
  • Though a slight, 6% rebound is expected by June 2021, the resulting 11% aggregate drop could grow again once funding expires with the fiscal year on June 30.

“We have known for some time that creativity and culture are being hammered by this pandemic. These survey results show that difficult times are far from over,” SCAC Executive Director David Platts said. “As resilient as the organizations served by the arts commission and Donnelley Foundation are, they are telling us the pandemic is not over for them. These are neighbors and friends in every community who need help and their options to support themselves are simply too limited to sustain them.”


Most respondents received PPP (Paycheck Protection Program) loans and either federal or state CARES Act funds. However, those funds were limited and only filled the gap for a few months. The SCAC requested additional funding in its proposed FY22 state budget.

Platts points out that even though data from the survey shows SCAC respondents estimate needing a total infusion of $3.2 million to operate past June, the need is far greater because response rate to the survey was 32%.

“We can only guess at the actual number, but creativity and culture here are facing a frightening situation,” he said.

Many barriers prevent these organizations from a near-term return to pre-pandemic operating conditions that could generate self-sustaining revenue. With many sponsors and individual donors feeling effects of the pandemic, that leaves federal and state emergency funds as critical lifelines used to close the gap.

Though significant majorities of respondents reported integration of digital programming, the survey showed that it is difficult to monetize. Among SCAC respondents, 75% reported at least some digital programming and 90% of GDDF respondents reported it. However, three quarters of both group’s respondents said digital programming was only able to make up, at most, 19% of their income. Cost was identified as the most significant barrier to digital programming.

“The survey points to the immediate critical need to support our arts and culture organizations. We will know the non-profit sector has recovered when the arts and culture sector has recovered,” David Farren, GDDF executive director said. “These organizations and their staffs are a vital part of the quality of life and economy in our communities.  We all need to step up to ensure they are able to return, when it is safe to do so, viable and ready to serve the community.”


About the South Carolina Arts Commission

The mission of the South Carolina Arts Commission (SCAC) is to promote equitable access to the arts and support the cultivation of creativity in South Carolina. We envision a South Carolina where the arts are valued and all people benefit from a variety of creative experiences.

A state agency created by the South Carolina General Assembly in 1967, the SCAC works to increase public participation in the arts by providing grants, direct programs, staff assistance and partnerships in three key areas: arts education, community arts development, and artist development. Headquartered in Columbia, S.C., the SCAC is fun­­­ded by the state of South Carolina, by the federal government through the National Endowment for the Arts, and other sources. Visit SouthCarolinaArts.com or call 803.734.8696, and follow @scartscomm on social media.


About the Gaylord and Dorothy Donnelley Foundation

The Gaylord and Dorothy Donnelley Foundation supports land conservation, artistic vitality, and regional collections for the people of the Chicago region and the Lowcountry of South Carolina.   The Foundation supports a wide spectrum of arts groups that reflect the vitality and diversity of the Lowcountry, providing general operations grants to arts organizations, as well as other assistance to support, strengthen and connect the Lowcountry arts ecosystem.

For more information on the Gaylord and Dorothy Donnelley Foundation, visit www.gddf.org or contact Lowcountry Program Director, Kerri Forrest, at kforrest@gddf.org.



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