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How Much Is Enough? An exploration of philanthropic capacity for arts and culture in Greater Milwaukee

The Public Policy Forum has conducted two comprehensive studies exploring arts, cultural, and entertainment offerings in Milwaukee. In Pulling Back the Curtain, released in December 2013, we assessed the needs of the Milwaukee County-owned parks and cultural facilities, privately-owned arts and cultural venues, and major publicly-funded sports and convention facilities within Milwaukee County. In March 2014, we released the second report, The Show Must Go On?, which analyzed public funding models used to support cultural and entertainment assets in five other regions.

In this report, we seek to shed light on the capacity of Greater Milwaukee’s philanthropic community to sustain and expand previous levels of support for the region’s arts and cultural institutions and organizations. Using both quantitative and qualitative methodologies, we assess recent trends in philanthropic giving to the arts and culture sector, challenges that have emerged that may impede such giving, and opportunities that might exist to enhance it.  

Key findings from the report include the following:

  • Individual giving poses the greatest opportunity for contributed revenue growth for arts and culture.
  • Private philanthropic dollars will flow to organizations whose leaders articulate both visionary projects and realistic business plans.
  • Greater Milwaukee is grappling with a deep philosophical divide between depth and breadth of arts and cultural offerings.
  • Inadequate endowments pose a substantial threat to the sustainability of Greater Milwaukee's arts and culture sector.
  • The public sector's role in owning and supporting cultural assets will help determine whether our region possesses sufficient philanthropic capacity.


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