Survey shows pandemic impact on creative, cultural non-profits


SPARTANBURG, S.C. (WSPA) – A recent survey of South Carolina non-profit organizations revealed more than half serving in the creative and cultural sector who responded, lacked the funding to continue operations and still face potential closure without emergency funding. However, some Upstate non-profits in this sector told 7 News, things are starting to look brighter.

An eerie sound still filling a lot of theatres, silence.

“It has been really devastating. Yes they’ve discovered how to do it in ways safely but how do you make money doing that? How do you pay your bills?,” said David Platts, Executive Director of the South Carolina Arts Commission.

David Platts with the South Carolina Arts Commission said the pandemic is taking a major toll on non-profits in creative and cultural sectors in the state. In fact, a survey they just released shows 48% of these organizations in the state that responded, claim they’re not able to keep going for another six months without financial help.

Kelsey Crum with the Carolina Dance Collaborative in the Upstate told 7 News, her organization participated in that very survey.

“Overall, we’ve definitely been impacted and a lot of our programs have been cut or slightly altered, and decreased in size,” Executive Director of Carolina Dance Collaborative, Kelsey Crum told us.

However, just like the sector they’re in, they’ve gotten creative like dance performances through Zoom. They also received some relief funds which she said have gone a long way with the dancers they teach.

“We bring dance education into the community and work with the YMCA, schools, nursing homes, disability centers and many other churches and places of that nature,” Crum said.

Platts mentioned not getting additional aid to trickle down to organizations like the one Crum directs, could be detrimental to not only the arts but also the state’s economy. Adding, these sectors pool in close to $10 billion a year.

“There are people that are coming to our cities and small towns from all over, just enjoying what South Carolina brings in the arts,” Platts told 7 News.

They’ve requested additional funds in the state budget. You can find a full press release from the South Carolina Arts Commission further breaking down the study, below:

Together SC, in partnership with a mix of foundations and funders from across the state, commissioned a late-winter survey of non-profit groups served by those funders to determine their financial health considering COVID-19. The South Carolina Arts Commission (SCAC) and Lowcountry-based Gaylord and Dorothy Donnelley Foundation (GDDF) provided questions geared toward arts, culture, and the humanities non-profits they serve.

Key findings

  • Statewide, the outlook is bleak, with 48% of creative and cultural (arts, culture, and humanities) survey respondents claiming they can operate for six months at most without additional revenue.
  • Job losses at responding organizations reached 16% from March 2020 to March 2021.
  • Though a slight, 6% rebound is expected by June 2021, the resulting 11% aggregate drop could grow again once funding expires with the fiscal year on June 30.

“We have known for some time that creativity and culture are being hammered by this pandemic. These survey results show that difficult times are far from over,” SCAC Executive Director David Platts said. “As resilient as the organizations served by the arts commission and Donnelley Foundation are, they are telling us the pandemic is not over for them. These are neighbors and friends in every community who need help and their options to support themselves are simply too limited to sustain them.”

Most respondents received PPP (Paycheck Protection Program) loans and either federal or state CARES Act funds. However, those funds were limited and only filled the gap for a few months. The SCAC requested additional funding in its proposed FY22 state budget.

Platts points out that even though data from the survey shows SCAC respondents estimate needing a total infusion of $3.2 million to operate past June, the need is far greater because response rate to the survey was 32%.

“We can only guess at the actual number, but creativity and culture here are facing a frightening situation,” he said.

Many barriers prevent these organizations from a near-term return to pre-pandemic operating conditions that could generate self-sustaining revenue. With many sponsors and individual donors feeling effects of the pandemic, that leaves federal and state emergency funds as critical lifelines used to close the gap.

Though significant majorities of respondents reported integration of digital programming, the survey showed that it is difficult to monetize. Among SCAC respondents, 75% reported at least some digital programming and 90% of GDDF respondents reported it. However, three quarters of both group’s respondents said digital programming was only able to make up, at most, 19% of their income. Cost was identified as the most significant barrier to digital programming.

“The survey points to the immediate critical need to support our arts and culture organizations. We will know the non-profit sector has recovered when the arts and culture sector has recovered,” David Farren, GDDF executive director said. “These organizations and their staffs are a vital part of the quality of life and economy in our communities.  We all need to step up to ensure they are able to return, when it is safe to do so, viable and ready to serve the community.”

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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