SMU DataArts - Cultural Data Profile


Lumina Studio Theatre, Silver Spring, MD. Photo by Linda Parker. Lumina Studio Theatre, Silver Spring, MD. Photo by Linda Parker.

Arts and Humanities Council of Montgomery County

  • Posted Dec 14, 2016

About the Arts and Humanities Council of Montgomery County

The Arts and Humanities Council of Montgomery County (AHCMC), in partnership with the community, cultivates and supports excellence in the arts and humanities, expands access to cultural expression, and contributes to economic vitality in the region. Since 1976, AHCMC has been the designated local arts agency of Montgomery County, MD. Through programs and services, AHCMC provides the infrastructure and support necessary to maintain a robust creative community that includes over 500 cultural organizations and 2,000 artists and scholars. AHCMC annually distributes over $5 million in grants to organizations and individuals to help fund enriching cultural activities in Montgomery County.

The Challenge

AHCMC faces two key, interrelated issues: serving the diverse array of artists, scholars and cultural organizations in Montgomery County, and evaluating the impact of investment across the sector. Suzan Jenkins, Chief Executive Officer, the Arts and Humanities Council of Montgomery County, said, “We often ask ourselves: ‘How do we measure the impact of philanthropy on the arts?’ We can be highly formulaic and give organizations a percentage of their income and expenses, but evaluating our applicant pool on more specific criteria to make a case with real data takes the guess work out of funding organizations in a way that positively impacts the community.”

How Data Makes a Difference

AHCMC implemented the Cultural Data Profile (CDP) in grantmaking in 2008. These reports help to determine how grants will or will not make a difference for both the community and applicant organization as well as providing sources for year-over- year trending in their grant pool. “The CDP makes grantmaking much easier because we no longer have to play a guessing game when it comes to evaluating our applicants. Now we have more insight into how well an organization is run, if it is fiscally responsible, and other measures that determine if an organization is seeking artistic support on solid footing.”

DataArts’ tools also help support AHCMC’s applicants as they paint more accurate, credible narratives leveraging data to enhance their application through helpful analytics and easy-to-use reports as they apply for grants.

DataArts, in a Word 

Scalable. Once AHCMC started crunching numbers from DataArts and other sources, we realized how impactful it could be for the community at large. With hard numbers, we can talk about the economic impact of the sector with legislators and with the artists and cultural organizations we serve so that the community at large can see themselves in the data. In this manner, we have demonstrated that positive change can happen at the organizational and legislative levels.

 We need to stop letting others tell the story about what influences a community’s vitality and start looking at the facts. Data allows us to take control of the message and change the conversation, not just for Montgomery County but for the entire sector.”

 Read the full case study.