Erie Vital Signs

Support of Arts and Cultural Activities: Nonprofit Arts Contributions per Capita

Recent Performance

Erie’s performance relative to the nation is weak for this indicator.

Erie’s per capita donations to arts and culture organizations amounted to $43.31 per person in 2012—or more than $12,000,000. This includes direct donations as well as grants made with citizens’ tax dollars. While this is a large amount of money, it is not much more than 2/3 of the amount given nationally to arts and culture--$63.72.

A lower level of support for this sector almost certainly has to translate into lower levels of art and culture activities and opportunities.

The Basics

This indicator reports on the amount of contributions that arts and culture nonprofits have reported on their tax returns to the IRS, adjusted to a per capita basis to allow us to compare Erie data with that for the nation. The indicator tells the number of total dollars contributed to arts and culture nonprofits, divided by the total population of the area. That results in the average amount that each person in Erie County or the U.S. contributed to support local arts and culture organizations, whether in the form of individual and direct contributions, or through government grants.

Why is it important?

Looking at the financial reports of nonprofit organizations nationwide, it is clear that arts and culture will not happen—or will occur to a much lower level—without contributions from supporters of the arts.

The Details

This indicator is one of the Urban Institute’s “Tier One” indicators, meaning that these indicators use data from respected sources, that are available annually down to the metro area level, and are comparable across areas. To calculate this variable, we used data from the National Center for Charitable Statistics (NCCS) database on the number of organizations in selected NTEE categories. We then used population data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s Population Estimates program (rather than data from the American Community Survey, which is less accurate) to calculate the per capita measures.

The Nitty-Gritty Details

This indicator makes use of the Urban Institute’s recommended procedure, which uses the following National Taxonomy of Exempt Entities Core Codes (NTEE-CC), from the 2003 National Center for Charitable Statistics (NCCS) database, for our Nonprofit Arts Organization per 10,000 population measure. (The source is given below.) Subsets of the NTEE “Arts, culture and humanities” grouping:
• Support organizations (codes A01, A02, A03, A05, A11, A12, and A19)
• Arts and culture organizations (codes A20, A23, A24, A25, A26, and A27)
• Media and communications (codes A30, A31, A32, A33, A34, and A40)
• Museums (codes A50, A51, A52, A54, A56, A57)
• Performing arts (codes A60, A61, A62, A63, A65, A68, A69, A6A, A6B, A6C, and A6E)
• Other arts, culture, and humanities nonprofits (codes A70, A80, A82, A84, A90, and A99)
• Fairs (N52)
Note: this list INcludes categories A27 (Community Celebrations), A84 (Commemorative Events) and N52 (Fairs.)

The NCCS database is generally recognized as the broadest and most accurate file for nonprofit research. It starts with the IRS Business Master File of all active organizations that have registered for tax-exempt status with the IRS. Variables such as NTEE codes and FIPS (geographical) codes are added by NCCS to provide additional research capabilities. More information is available here

But it is far from a “perfect” database. As the Urban Institute points out: “Data from nonprofits’ IRS 990 tax forms provide regularly collected and publicly available information about revenue and expenditures. These data have been further assembled into more analytically ready information by the National Center for Charitable Statistics (NCCS) at the Urban Institute. The main advantage of the NCCS database is that it provides the most reliable regular source of information on nonprofit organizations. Often acknowledged limitations of IRS 990 data include the fact that organizations with annual incomes (gross receipts) of less than $25,000 are not required to file Form 990, that inactive organizations may remain in the dataset, and that religious institutions (i.e., churches or temples) are not required to register with the IRS. In addition, various programs of large nonprofits are aggregated under the main purpose or mission of the organization.” (Jackson et al, p. 68.)


This indicator has no subcategories.

Peer Areas

This indicator include data on Erie County and the United States as a whole.




Additional Studies and Research

Maria Rosario Jackson, Florence Kabwasa-Green, and Joaquín Herranz. Cultural Vitality in Communities: Interpretation and Indicators. Culture, Creativity, and Communities Program, The Urban Institute, 2006. Online here

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