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Investing in Cultural Participation and Financial Sustainability: Cross-cohort Analysis of the Arts Regional Initiative, 2009-2014

Jan 11, 2016

Between 2009 and 2014, The James Irvine Foundation invested $13.4 million through the Arts Regional Initiative to build the capacity of a group of nonprofit arts organizations in California locales outside of major arts centers. The aim was two-fold: to increase cultural participation and improve financial sustainability. The following lessons emerged from Harder+Company Community Research analysis of the Initiative:



  1. It's possible to increase cultural participation.

  2. Combining key approaches maximizes participation.

  3. Organizations can achieve new capacities.

  4. Increased capacity cannot ensure financial sustainability.

  5. Partnerships and executive leadership matter.

  6. Commitment level correlates with benefit.


The Initiative intentionally focused on nonprofit arts organizations working in regions of California characterized by changing demographics and lacking robust financial support for the nonprofit arts sector. This regional context, including effects of the recession, is provided in the Appendix.