Indiana University’s study revealing that arts and culture nonprofits face “significant challenges” may not come as a shock.

Its goal wasn’t to surprise, though — it was to identify the strengths and weaknesses of those nonprofits and be a resource for the Indiana Arts Commission, a state-funded agency dedicated to the arts. The study found that nonprofit organizations focused on arts and culture face more challenges with finances, staffing, marketing and more.

Indiana Arts and Culture Nonprofits: Overviews and Challenges,” released in late October and led by the School of Public and Environmental Affairs, uses data from a 2017 survey of 1,170 Indiana nonprofits. It’s part of a series of nonprofit surveys and reports, and included pulling out a subset of arts and culture nonprofits.

Kirsten Gronbjerg, who led the study, said the project last looked into the unique challenges of arts and culture organizations in 2010, and she worked with the Indiana Arts Commission to include a special subsample.

IAC was particularly interested in using and updating those findings to look more at what were the specific challenges that the Indiana arts and culture nonprofits were facing, and how they could use that information to develop training programs and capacity building efforts,” Gronbjerg said.

IAC director Lewis Ricci said capacity building, a term used frequently in this research, refers to helping the field mature, educating groups and giving them the tools to be more successful. “We like to base all of those capacity building opportunities on research,” he said, “so we know what the field wants and needs.” It also allows them to use the information in their strategic planning and inform their grant-giving opportunities.

Making direct comparisons between different types of nonprofits, even within the arts and culture subset, is a daunting task. Bloomington is home to many organizations, large and small, in performing arts, visual arts and education that fall into that category. Within that group, leaders of four non-university theater groups — Bloomington Playwrights Project, Cardinal Stage, the Jewish Theater of Bloomington and Stages Bloomington — spoke to The Herald-Times about the relevance of the study to their own operations.

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