Arts & Business has been conducting the annual Private Investment in Culture Survey (PICS) in one form or other for more than 30 years. Simply put, it measures the levels of private money coming into the arts. When I started working on it three years ago, getting enough responses for robust analysis was difficult. Asking arts fundraisers – busy, under-resourced people at the best of times – to complete a 30 minute survey on income sources? In atomic detail? Definitely a big ask.

Another problem was the sprawling data PICS produces. Respondents were spending lots of time on a survey that sometimes seemed to offer no direct or tangible value for them. The media, academics and government use the report to understand the overarching trends of the “market”, but the individual arts worker sometimes got lost in a maze of pie charts. Trying to unpick the bits most relevant to their own organisation was tricky.

This year we wanted to change that. Directly relevant, immediate data was the goal, particularly for the individual fundraisers who need to make sense of the context they are operating in. Last year we introduced an online interactive map and this year a digital benchmarking tool. Why is this a big deal? It humanises the data. Every arts worker can manipulate and interrogate the findings in an easy and meaningful way.

How? Say you want to know how much corporate sponsorship theatre received in Yorkshire? Perhaps you want to see how much small dance orgs received in the Midlands? Simply adjust the menus and up it pops.

A report people can pivot to their own needs helps bring out the stories of private arts funding up and down the country. Why is this important? Well using specific data we hope the arts can understand the differences within the sector marked out by factors such as region, artform and (for me) the most important differentiator, size. This allows arts organisations to benchmark their own performance against that of other organisations similar in scope.

Of course how people use the figures is down to them. Still it has been great to see the report received with such interest this year and for me personally, it has been heartening to see arts practitioners using the data we produce.

It just needed to be presented in a way that recognises how little time they’ve got and how valuable it is.

To access the full report and play with our interactive map and benchmarking tool, click here:

Tina Mermiri is Research Manager at Arts & Business
Tw @tinamermiri

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