Digital Technology Bolstering Arts and Culture Budgets

theatre digital fundraising

Arts and Cultural Organisations are increasingly turning to digital activities to grow revenue

A new survey of arts and cultural organisations reveals that more are turning to digital technology to help bolster their finances.

In the second of a three-year study, the Digital R&D Fund for the Arts partners – Nesta, Arts Council England and the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) – surveyed 947 arts and cultural organisations about how they use online and mobile technology and how they plan to do so over the next 12 months.

The findings, published in Digital Culture 2014, show that an increasing number are reaping the rewards of their digital activities with nearly three quarters (73%) saying it had a major positive impact on their work this year, compared with 60% last year.

Crowdfunding and online donations is the top trend for 2015

In line with last year, organisations said digital technology was most important to marketing (92%) preserving and archiving (81%) and operations (78%). However, more than half (51%) also now consider it to be important to their business model, up from a third last year (34%).

The growing use of digital technology by arts organisations looks set to continue; 75% said they plan to increase their digital activity over the next 12 months. The top three activities expected to grow in 2015 are related to raising money and include using crowdfunding platforms to generate income for new projects, accepting online donations and selling products or merchandise online.

Arts and Cultural Organisations using Data-driven Techniques

The report also reveals that arts and cultural organisations are expanding the ways in which they use digital technologies, with the proportion with websites optimised for mobile growing from one third (33%) last year to more than half (55%) in 2014. Many groups are now using data-driven techniques to engage audiences and for fundraising with more now using data to better understand their audience through analysis, segmentation and/or profiling compared to last year.

However, the barriers to adopting digital technology remain unchanged with more than two thirds (70%) reporting that a lack of funding and shortage of staff time are preventing them from fully achieving their aspirations.

Tandi Williams, Digital R&D Fund for the Arts research manager, explains that “Digital technologies like social media and mobile-optimised websites are fast becoming part of arts and cultural organisations’ core activity, with many using them not only to engage audiences but to create new work and support their business model. Crucially, they are having a considerable positive impact and growing numbers appear to be reaping financial returns.”

“Digital projects are often resource intensive and need to be carefully matched to organisational goals, but this year’s findings suggest that as a sector we are becoming more effective in our digital work. Through activities like crowdfunding and online donations we can expect to see increasing numbers raising income through digital means next year.”



Digital Culture 2014: How arts and cultural organisations in England use technology is available on request. The Digital R&D fund for the Arts is a £7 million fund to support collaboration between organisations with arts projects, technology providers, and researchers. It is a partnership between Arts Council EnglandArts and Humanities Research Council and Nesta.

Image Credits. Top: “Creative Director at Buck and Digital Design Grad Ryan Honey Visits VFS” by Vancouver Film School; Lower: “2014 32/100: Walt Disney Theatre on Disney Dream!” by peddhapati (Creative Commons)

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