The visual, literary, and performing arts—and the cultural institutions that house and present them—can help build stronger societies and create deeper understandings of humanity and the world. Whether they are internationally renowned institutions or local, community-based centers or groups, arts and culture organizations can inspire problem solving and creativity, contextualize history, spur healthy cultural expression, promote healing, and revitalize communities.

Funding for the arts can come from national and local governments, corporations, institutional philanthropy, and individual donors. However, many arts organizations are chronically underfunded. Additionally, the arts and culture ecosystem has also often excluded voices from marginalized communities, and such underrepresentation can influence broader cultural narratives and perpetuate inequality.

Philanthropists have long supported the arts and cultural programs and institutions, from launching new arts organizations to investing in individual artists and projects.

Often, a lack of public funding heightens the need for arts philanthropy. In the United States, for example, the National Endowment for the Arts received a mere 0.003 percent of the federal budget in FY 2020. Philanthropic funding is comparatively higher than public funding: a 2018 study by Grantmakers in the Arts found that 9 percent of all grants support the arts—but much of this is directed to the largest institutions, many of which already have significant endowments.

Overall, in 2018, arts giving from the 1,000 largest foundations totaled $3 billion, a 4 percent increase from the previous year. Of that amount, performing arts and museums were the top recipients (29 and 24 percent, respectively), followed by multidisciplinary arts (19 percent), the humanities (11 percent), and visual arts (8 percent). The biggest donors have a outsized influence on the sector; the top 25 funders represented 42 percent of foundation arts dollars.

Challenges in the sector include the difficulty of measuring the impact of arts funding and the dispersed nature of many arts organizations. Nonetheless, philanthropists continue to play a role in the evolving arts and culture landscape through a wide range of efforts.

Read the full article about arts and culture philanthropy at Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors.