SMU DataArts - Cultural Data Profile


Chorus Operations Survey and COVID-19 Impact Report (2020)

  • Posted Oct 22, 2020

Prepared for Chorus America October 2020

Rebecca Johnson Research Specialist, SMU DataArts

Daniel Fonner Associate Director for Research, SMU DataArts

Pittsburgh Cultural Trust, Pittsburgh, PA. Students attend a performance at the Trust Arts Education Center. Pittsburgh Cultural Trust, Pittsburgh, PA. Students attend a performance at the Trust Arts Education Center.

Executive Summary

This analysis provides summaries of key metrics for choruses who completed the Cultural Data Project and the Chorus Operations Survey. In addition, the second section of this report covers findings presented in the COVID-19 Impact Survey, administered by Chorus America.

Chorus data in the financial summary sections include information from choruses who have entered financial and programmatic data into the online data collection system of SMU DataArts (formerly the Cultural Data Project), an independent nonprofit organization, as well as the custom survey module for Chorus America. For the 119 choruses in the dataset, SMU DataArts used the latest Cultural Data Profiles (FY2018 or FY2019) available as of April 2020.

The secondary section covers a snapshot view of the initial impacts felt by the choral field and projects revenue loss. SMU DataArts has incorporated data collected by Chorus America regarding COVID-19 impact. In addition to the programmatic and financial numbers submitted to Chorus America’s COVID-19 impact survey, respondents also provided textual information that helped contextualize their current situation and needs. Common themes included calls to advocating for funding, the loosening of grant restrictions in order to maintain operations and think creatively towards new programming, and the need for assistance developing and distributing digital/remote experiences for audiences. To view select comments, see appendix A of this report.


Key Findings

  • For the analysis of the 119 Chorus America organizations, the revenue picture for choruses is one in which a chorus typically raises 57% of revenue through contributed sources, and 38% from earned sources.
  • The importance of revenue related to people (admissions, membership & subscription, individual support) is clearly shown, as these revenue items comprise over one-third of total revenue for many organizations. Individual contributions are extremely important for organizations of all sizes - ranging from 17% to 39% of total revenue.
  • Choruses spend the greatest portion of their money on programmatic expenses, with 74 cents of every dollar going directly to expenses around producing and performing shows, materials needed for programming, educational programs, etc.
  • Nearly two-thirds (64%) of choruses analyzed reported at least one full or part-time paid staff person, with 29% of choruses reporting part-time staff only.
  • Deficits are always a concern for nonprofit arts and cultural organizations, as they can affect an organization’s ability to fulfill its mission. Forty-six percent of participating choruses are showing some level of deficit. Most of these deficits come in under 10% of total budgets by expenses, meaning their deficit is not currently significant.
  • Even with some choruses in deficit, the Operating Cash levels across budget categories seem healthy, when paired with Working Capital.
  • Eighty-one percent of responding organizations identified actual revenue losses due to COVID-19, and 92% project a revenue loss based on their knowledge in April/May 2020. Small organizations with budgets under $250,000 have been hardest hit by the impact.
  • Overall revenue loss is at 30% (26% earned and 4% contributed revenue loss). This figure compares to what has been analyzed among small sized organizations in a separate New York City study.
  • Professional choruses anticipate the most severe income losses for the 2020 fiscal year as percentages of annual operating revenue (35%, an average of $74,553), followed by volunteer choruses (32%, an average of $45,260)


Download the Full Report


Chorus America is the advocacy, research, and leadership development organization that advances the choral field. We support and serve choral conductors, administrators, board members, and singers with tools, training, peer networking, and access so that choruses are better able to contribute to their communities.

Chorus America serves more than 6,000 choruses, individuals, businesses, and organizations with a wide array of programs, publications, research, and professional services. These services strengthen their ability to build strong organizations that foster quality choral performances and community connections.

Chorus America is governed by a diverse board of accomplished arts leaders from across North America, and the executive staff is headquartered in Washington, DC. Chorus America was founded as the Association of Professional Vocal Ensembles in 1977 to gain recognition for professional choruses and today represents hundreds of choruses of every kind throughout North America and beyond. Learn more and join.

Crisis Relief and Resources

Find resources, funding relief, and recent data on the impact of COVID-19 on the cultural sector.

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